Bubbles saves the day as Tipp show steel
Galway 2-19 Tipperary 1-22
Just how valuable 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's late point turns out to be for Tipperary won't be known until next Sunday but it was certainly enough to put a smile on Michael Ryan's face in Pearse Stadium yesterday.
After being caught late on by Kilkenny and Waterford in their last two games, Tipperary appeared set for an unfortunate treble but O'Dwyer rescued them with a deftly angled point from near the sideline in the fourth minute of stoppage-time.
A minute earlier, Joe Canning put Galway ahead with a delightfully struck line-ball, which drew massive roars of approval from the Galway supporters in the crowd of 6,619.
It made painful watching for Ryan but he graciously acknowledged its beauty.
"Joe is a special player and we have seen that time and time again. But to witness it (line-ball) from three yards away, it would break your heart," he said.
That score crowned a superb performance by Canning, who scored 1-11 (1-2 from play), the goal in first-half stoppage-time being another typical example of his capacity to seize the big chance when it comes his way.
He was 45 metres from the Tipperary goal when he collected a clever cross-field pass from Aidan Harte but immediately found some open ground and powered forward.
He took a heavy hit on his way into the shooting zone but kept his balance before driving the ball high into the net. He added a free just before the break to leave Galway trailing by just a single point, 1-10 to 1-9.
In truth, they should have been much further behind. Tipperary had been the sharper side right up to stoppage-time and only for inaccurate finishing - they shot eight wides - they would have been comfortably in control.
Niall O'Meara settled them into a lively routine in the third minute and by the 29th minute, they were seven points ahead (1-9 to 0-5). However, their tendency to hit valley periods, which also cost them dearly against Kilkenny and Waterford, was again in evidence on the run-in towards half-time.
Galway have similar issues - they failed to score between the 14th and 30th minutes - but, on the positive side, their response to what looked a serious situation was impressive.
"I said it right from the off: the attitude and application by the players has been very good and they showed it again today," said Galway manager Micheal Donoghue.
"There were aspects of the game we were happy with, especially in the second half, but when you're a point up right at the end it's disappointing not to win. We were slow into it but we finished the first half well, which was important."
Galway got an early break in the second half when Darren Gleeson was beaten by an Iarla Tannian shot, which certainly won't be contender for goal of the year as he seemed to mis-hit it. However, it bounced wickedly off the surface and flew into the net.
The game then took on the traditional hallmarks of so many Galway-Tipperary clashes, with scores coming thick and fast, usually alternatively. Indeed, there were times when it looked remarkably similar to the All-Ireland semi-final shootout, with high-quality point-taking by both sides.
But then it was the first really good day of the season for hurling, with no wind, which is very unusual at a venue noted for Atlantic interventions.
Tipperary led by a point at the three-quarter-stage but Galway pulled two points clear on three occasions from there on, only to be pegged back each time.
Tipperary should have had a goal in the 56th minute when a misdirected puck-out by James Skehill was intercepted by John McGrath, who placed O'Dwyer on the run.
O'Dwyer seemed certain to score but Skehill made a good save, although he really shouldn't have been given a chance.
It was an uncharacteristic miss by O'Dwyer, a half-time replacement for Dan McCormack but, in fairness, he later made amends with the match-saving point.
Relegation worries are still darkening both sets of doors but the prize of a quarter-final place is also on offer in next Sunday's final round of group games.
Both are on three points, with Galway heading for Waterford while Tipperary will be at home to Cork.
Tipperary have a 13-point superior scoring difference to Galway, which could be crucial if both sides win. It would nudge Tipperary into fourth place and the League quarter-finals, leaving Galway facing Cork in a 1A relegation play-off.
"We'll wait until next Sunday to see how it all plays out but I think that might be a crucial draw. For us to have lost in a couple of tight games and come back to get a draw late on today is a big step in the right direction," said Ryan (right).
It gives them the edge on Galway in the League race but, according to Ryan, the manner in which his side rescued the situation late on was the most pleasing aspect of all.
"We showed character in spades today," he said.
For all that, he has to be concerned with the manner in which they let a seven-point lead slip so quickly late in the first half. But then Donoghue won't be pleased with the earlier part of the first half, when Galway lost a great many of the 50-50 battles in the middle third and were well beaten on their own puck-outs.
It's still very early in Donoghue's reign and while it's disappointing to be in the relegation zone, he's keeping it all in perspective.
"We're new in so we're looking at different lads and different options - maybe different game-plans too. The lads are adapting well to it. That's what we want from these games and we're getting some positives out of them.
"This division is very competitive so we have to go down to Waterford and do our job next Sunday and see how other results stack up. That's all we can do," he said.
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 1-11 (0-8f, 0-1 line-ball), N Burke 0-4, J Flynn 0-3, I Tannian 1-0, D Glennon 0-1. Tipperary: J McGrath 0-6 (4f), N McGrath, M Breen 0-3 each, N O'Meara 1-0, J O'Dwyer, Adrian Ryan, B Maher 0-2 each, B Heffernan, C Barrett, D Quinn, P Maher 0-1 each.
Galway - J Skehill 6; P Hoban 6, Daithi Burke 7, F Moore 7; G McInerney 6, David Burke 7, A Harte 7; I Tannian 7, C Mannion 6; A Smith 6, N Burke 8, D Glennon 7; J Flynn 7, J Canning 9, C Whelan 5. Subs: R Cummins 6 for Tannian (54), E Burke 6 for Whelan (61), P Brehony 6 for Smith (62).
Tipperary - D Gleeson 6; C Barrett 8, T Hamill 7, M Cahill 6; B Heffernan 6, R Maher 8, P Maher 7; B Maher 7, M Breen 7; N McGrath 7, K Bergin 5, D McCormack 5; A Ryan 7, J McGrath 7, N O'Meara 6. Subs: C O'Brien 7 for Cahill (24), C Kenny 5 for Bergin (ht), J O'Dwyer 7 for McCormack (ht), D Quinn 6 for Kenny (57), G Ryan for A Ryan (65).
Ref - J Owens (Wexford)