Tuesday 26 September 2017

All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final: Canning’s class the tie-breaker in epic showdown

Galway 0-22 Tipperary 1-18: A single point separates fierce rivals for a third successive year as  obsessed Galway book All-Ireland final date with Cork or Waterford

John O'Dwyer, and Séamus Callanan of Tipperary in action against Daithí Burke, left, and John Hanbury of Galway during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Galway and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
John O'Dwyer, and Séamus Callanan of Tipperary in action against Daithí Burke, left, and John Hanbury of Galway during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between Galway and Tipperary at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

If they hurled from dawn until dusk every day of the week, would there ever be more than one score between them?

Nine of their last ten championship clashes have been won by one to three points, with yesterday's epic battle providing a minimum margin semi-final victory for a third successive year.

Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer celebrates after scoring a point. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary’s John O’Dwyer celebrates after scoring a point. Photo: Sportsfile

As in 2015, it was Galway who snatched the winner deep in stoppage-time when Joe Canning angled over a superb point from close to the sideline.

It took his total to 0-11 on a day when his second-half performance reminded the 68,184 who were in Croke Park and the many others who watched on TV of the special talent that he really is.

The transformation from the first half was so stark that he scarcely looked the same player. He appeared to be hampered by injury early on, finding it difficult to get on the ball.

Responsibility

Tipp’s Brendan Maher congratulates Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipp’s Brendan Maher congratulates Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Photo: Sportsfile

And when he found his way into the scoring zone his accuracy was well below his high standard, although he did delight Galway followers by pointing a line ball just before the interval.

It was different in the second half when his 0-7 was made up of three from play, three frees - one from around 90 metres - and a '65'.

In addition, he moved all over the pitch in search of work and responsibility, with his winning point an unmistakable example of how he discharged the latter.

Since the sides had been level 13 times and were never separated by more than two points after the 20th minute, it was almost inevitable that Tipperary would get one last chance to equalise, which they duly did.

Greg Lally (L)and Jason Flynn celebrate their All-Ireland SHC semi-final victory. Photo: Sportsfile
Greg Lally (L)and Jason Flynn celebrate their All-Ireland SHC semi-final victory. Photo: Sportsfile

It fell to 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, who had earlier scored three points, but this time his shot from near the sideline drifted wide.

With it went Tipperary's prospects of retaining the All-Ireland title for the first time in 52 years, while Galway's ambitions of ending a 29-year wait for the title came into much sharper focus.

They would have felt a huge sense of relief at the end as there was a nervousness about them at times which suggested they weren't comfortable with the favourites' tag, something that has frequently impacted on them in the past.

However, they countered it with a ferocious work ethic which sustained them through some uneasy times and gave them the initiative at other stages.

Tipperary grafted just as hard, stretching themselves to the limit in an attempt to stay in line for the two in a row.

Their performance would have booked a place in the final on many other occasions but this time it just came up short against opposition who are now totally obsessed with banishing the 'nearly men' reputation.

Of course, if the game had gone on for another 30 seconds it's altogether possible - perhaps even probable given what had gone before - that Tipperary would have snatched a draw, a result that would have delighted neutrals as much Michael Ryan's battling warriors.

It wasn't to be for Tipperary, who fully understand how fine the margins really are when they line up against Galway.

Yet, in their reflective moments, they will have regrets. A productive start - they led by three points after eight minutes - wasn't built on and they should have had a second goal in the 26th minute when Seamus Callanan closed in on a clear opportunity.

Most times he would finish expertly but not on this occasion as his ground shot was too close to Colm Callanan, who made an important save.

It made up for the defensive error, involving both Callanan and Adrian Tuohy, which allowed John McGrath in for a Tipperary goal in the 23rd minute.

Callanan and Tuohy put the bad experience behind them, with both doing very well from there on. Callanan made an excellent save from Noel McGrath in the 51st minute, while Tuohy's split-second time enabled him to get in some vital interceptions as Tipperary powered up the pressure in the final 15 minutes.

Tipperary led by 1-10 to 0-12 at the interval, setting up a second half where the sides were level seven times. There was never more than two points between them either, with Galway generally holding the advantage.

They had a number of goal opportunities in the second half, none of which they took. Conor Cooney drove wide in the 36th minute, Jonathon Glynn was twice thwarted by Darren Gleeson, and Canning was just off-target too.

For all the close calls, Tipperary kept their net intact, an outcome that few would have predicted after a summer in which their full-back line wobbled precariously.

Conor Whelan added to their woes in the first half, tossing over three points, but they gradually settled down and grew in confidence as the game progressed. Galway's full-back line improved too after a nervy first half when it looked as if the O'Dwyer-Callanan-John McGrath axis might inflict serious damage.

All three had some good moments in the second half, but Galway held out and enjoyed a double stroke of luck when Callanan drove two '65s' wide.

They were crucial misses in such a tight game and will feature high in the 'what might have been' column when Tipperary review how they lost the All-Ireland crown.

Remarkably, Galway have reached the All-Ireland final after failing to score a goal in three of four games against Offaly, Wexford and Tipperary. Their only goals came against Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final. Not that it matters, of course, once their point-taking remains so consistent.

Yesterday's game took them into different territory, as unlike their previous opponents, Tipperary did not use a sweeper. That increased the individual responsibility on the Galway defenders and, in the main, they responded well.

Padraic Mannion and Gearoid McInerney were outstanding in the half-back line, the latter making a number of spectacular catches in the second half, which were reminiscent of his father Gerry during his glory days as Galway's No 7.

Tipperary didn't have the physical power to cope with Galway in that area but with Brendan Maher doing so well at midfield, the Premier supply lines remained quite good.

Unusually, Tipperary played 14 of their starting 15 all the way, the only changes featuring Jason Forde coming in for Michael Breen just before half time and later being replaced by Niall O'Meara.

Galway sent in three subs, with Glynn's power adding to Tipperary's problems in the final quarter.

Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-11 (6fs, 1s/l, 1 '65'), C Whelan 0-4, C Cooney, J Cooney (1f), J Coen 0-2 each, C Mannion 0-1. Tipperary: S Callanan 0-5 (3fs), J McGrath 1-1, B Maher (2fs), J O'Dwyer 0-3 each, Padraig Maher, N McGrath 0-2 each, J Forde, S Kennedy 0-1 each.

Galway - C Callanan; A Tuohy, Daithi Burke, J Hanbury; P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen, David Burke; N Burke, J Canning, J Cooney; C Whelan, C Cooney, C Mannion. Subs: J Flynn for N Burke (44), J Glynn for C Mannion (53), S Maloney for C Cooney (70).

Tipperary - D Gleeson; D Maher, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy, R Maher, Padraic Maher; B Maher, M Breen; D McCormack, N McGrath, Patrick Maher; J O'Dwyer, S Callanan, J McGrath. Subs: J Forde for Breen (34), N O'Meara for Forde (61).

Ref - B Kelly (Westmeath).

Irish Independent

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