Tipperary 2-18 Galway 0-20: The vagaries of February hurling were as bracing in Semple Stadium yesterday as the breeze which swirled towards the Town End.
Tipperary, so soulless against Dublin, were 10 points ahead with 25 minutes remaining here.
The committed attitude shown by Conor O’Brien and John O’Dwyer in Parnell Park was replicated by their team-mates this time as Galway’s youthful side looked outfought and outthought.
On an usually poor Thurles sod, Galway fired over six points in a nine-minute blitz. A 69th-minute point from Brendan Maher, just seconds after he had come off worst in an aerial clash with Seamus Callanan, ended the visitors’ run only for Andy Smith to then bring the sides to within a score again.
In injury time, Darren Gleeson was then called on to catch an awkward goal-line ball from Joseph Cooney. A minute later and O’Dwyer funnelled a ball through to sub Conor Kenny and he converted the insurance score.
Had Galway rescued a point, it would have said more about Tipperary’s lack of fortitude than the visitors’ character. And even if there was an element of injustice about Seamus Callanan’s goal, it must be stated Tipperary had led from the fourth minute and never let go.
Galway, in fact, had replaced half their attack by the 52nd minute. A minute from the end and four of their forward line were sitting on the sideline. If not for Cooney’s move from midfield to the edge of the square, things could have been bleaker for last weekend’s victors over Clare. Galway’s decision to play a sweeper against the wind in the first half had cut out some of Callanan’s supply but he was still doing enough to lay off a score here and there and his 29th minute point was a thing of beauty. Brendan Maher, operating in the half-forward line, might be likened to a square peg but he impressed in a Patrick Maher-like, break-up-the-play performance.
There were also positives for Eamon O’Shea in the displays from Ronan Maher and John McGrath, younger brothers of Pádraic and Noel respectively. Michael Breen too. “I was glad for the younger players,” said O’Shea. “I thought we put in two or three new players, which is really, really pleasing for them.
“And I thought the older players did well as well. I thought Paul [Curran] made a class, fair, tackle there at the end in the last few minutes. I thought Pádraic was outstanding. But then Pádraic is outstanding for us all the time in training.
“Everybody worked hard, even when they’re at the top of their game. You’ll never get an evenness of players at this time of the year, because players are going up and down in terms of where they’re at.
“There’s no fluidity in their play, therefore there’s no pattern. And that’s what you see in the league. It’s difficult to know who’s going to win on any given Sunday or where you are.”
The lack of composure from Galway’s youth — Jason Flynn and Brian Molloy among the guilty party — was a regret of Anthony Cunningham’s, but he qualified it by the amount of hurling they’re being asked to play at the moment.
“We needed a bit more punch up front and we gambled with that. Greg Lally coming in, Brian Molloy they worked hard. Some of our players have a lot of hurling done, even at this early stage. A lot of them are at college or U21 and Jason, Dean [Higgins], James Regan and Padraig Brehony they looked a bit tired. That’s going to happen in these matches.”
Into the teeth of that breeze, Galway coped well and trailed by just three points at the break, 0-14 to 0-11. With Kieran Bergin pulling the strings in midfield, Tipperary kept their noses in front although at times they appeared to be shooting on sight.
They had a dream start to the second half when just seconds into it John O’Dwyer caught a low ball from McGrath and he measured his shot past Colm Callanan.
Galway didn’t score for the first 12 minutes of the half as Tipperary’s half-backs controlled matters. Callanan then appeared to foul John Hanbury before his deft finish for a 45th minute goal as McGrath again turned provider.
Tipperary were outscored eight points to three for the remainder but O’Shea afterwards was willing to overlook such statistics. A win, even as unreliable a hurling month as February, is a win.
Scorers for Tipperary: S Callanan (1-3, 0-2 frees); J O'Dwyer (1-2); K Bergin, J Forde (0-3 each); J McGrath (0-2); G Ryan, R Maher, D Gleeson (free), B Maher, C Kenny (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway: J Flynn (0-4, 3 frees, 1 sideline); C Mannion, J Cooney (0-3 each); C Regan, P Brehony, A Smith (1 free) (0-2 each); I Tannian, J Glynn, B Molloy (0-1 each); C Barrett (0-1, own score).
Subs for Tipperary: J Woodlock for G Ryan (h-t); C Kenny for D Maher (inj 42); N McGrath for J McGrath (54); J Meagher for K Bergin (70).
Subs for Galway: K Hynes for P Brehony (43); G Lally for D Higgins (47); B Molloy for J Regan (52); A Harte for J Flynn (68).
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; C Barrett, P Curran, C O'Brien; M Breen, P Maher, R Maher; K Bergin, G Ryan; D Maher, J Forde, B Maher; J O'Dwyer, S Callanan, J McGrath.
GALWAY: C Callanan; J Coen, J Hanbury, P Mannion; G McInerney, D Collins, I Tannian; J Cooney, A Smith; P Brehony, C Mannion, D Higgins; J Regan, J Flynn, J Glynn.
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).
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