Galway claim Division One crown with unexpected rout of Tipperary
Galway 3-21 Tipperary 0-14
Galway hurlers secured their first national trophy since 2010 when they collected their tenth Allianz League title after an utterly one-sided decider at Limerick's Gaelic Grounds.
The President Michael D Higgins, a Galway native, lifted the League trophy together with Galway captain David Burke as the Tribesmen cast aside their tag as the nearly team of hurling.
Unquestionably this was their most complete performances since a players coup resulted in the appointment of Micheal Donoghue as team manager in late 2015. His side were full value for their 16-point win.
This was a rude wake-up call for Tipperary. Arguably it was their worst performance since Michael Ryan took charge.
They were comprehensively outplayed in every sector of the field. Fortunate to be trailing by just six points at the break one expected an immediate response from the All-Ireland title holders.
Instead it was Galway's Man of the Match Jason Flynn who essentially settled the issue within 50 seconds of the restart with the first of the Tribesmen's three second half goals.
The outcome was never in doubt from then on and Galway merely underlined their dominance with a second goal from Flynn in the 57th minute before full-forward Cathal Mannion compounded Tipp's misery when he found the net four minutes from the end.
Tipp's day of frustration was neatly summed up in injury time when the crossbar denied substitute Patrick Maher a consolation goal – but truthfully they didn't deserve anything from this game in which only three of their forwards scored from play and three of them were replaced.
The Galway defence deserve huge credit; brilliantly led by full back Daithi Burke they won all their individual battles while a brace of clearances from Aidan Touhy set up two of their goals.
Tipp corner-backs Cathal Barrett and Michael Cahill had afternoons to forget as well as Flynn and Conor Whelan – who was the game's top scorer from play with 0-5 – scorched the Tipp defence while Joe Canning was an excellent leader at centre forward.
The result was changed perceptions about the the race for the 2017 Liam MacCarthy Cup. Like the football series, the hurling championship no longer looks like a one-horse race.
One suspects, that privately Michael Ryan won't fret too much about the result – though the performance will concern him.
But he now has the chance to refocus the minds of the players who looked out of sorts all day. Galway have a different problem – how to dampen down expectations in the wake of probably their best team performance since demolishing Kilkenny in the 2012 Leinster final.
Tipperary fielded 13 of last September's All-Ireland winning side; Jason Forde – facing a proposed two match ban – and dual player Steven O'Brien replaced the injured Seamus Callanan and Patrick Maher respectively.
O'Brien was replaced by Niall O'Meara before the break as Tipperary struggled to contain a rampant Galway while Maher – back from peace keeping duties with the UN in Syria – came off the bench in the second half.
The loss through injury before the start of Conor Cooney – he was replaced by Niall Burke – didn't impact on Galway, though they will have been disappointed not to lead by more than six points (0-11; 0-5) at the break.
Tipperary failed utterly to fire in the first half as evidenced by the fact that it took them 16 minutes to record their first score from play and Noel McGrath was their only forward to score from play in the half.
John McGrath was off target with three placed balls – including 2 65s – as Tipperary chalked up nine first half wides.
Galway's finishing – particularly their long range shooting – was even more wayward as they had 11 first half wides with Jason Flynn hitting three of them and he failed to convert Galway's only goal chance in the half after 23 minutes.
He cut in from the right flank but his effort was saved at the expense of a 65 by Tipperary goalkeeper Conor Gleeson.
The normally ultra reliable Tipperary defence looked jittery from the early minutes with Cathal Barrett struggling to cope with the threat of Conor Whelan – who was the game's leading scorer from play in the first half with 0-3.
The sides were level 0-3 each after 16 minutes but the second quarter belonged to Galway who were winning Tipperary's puck-outs and they pushed on to outscore their Munster rivals 8-2 until half time.
A clearance from Aidan Tuohy and a touch on from Joseph Cooney provided the opening for Jason Whelan to score Galway's opening goal after 50 seconds of the second half. Tipperary briefly match their opponents point for point though there was little fluency in their play.
Two points on the spin from Michael Breen and a Ronan Maher free left eight between the sides with just over 20 minutes remaining.
But it didn't get any better for Tipp as Galway shifted up a gear again and outscored the Premier County – who had beaten them by a point in last year's All-Ireland semi-final – 2-7 to 0-5 during the remainder of the tie.
So, for the third year in a row a team that played in Division 1B has won the league but unlike their predecessors Clare and Waterford, Galway did it without actually winning promotion from the division.
The official attendance was 16,089.
Galway: C Callanan; A Touhy, Daithi Burke, P Killeen; P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte (0-2); J Coen (0-1), David Burke (0-1); J Flynn (2-1), J Canning (0-9, 2 65s, 3f), J Cooney; C Whelan (0-5), C Mannion (1-1), N Burke. Subs: J Glynn for Canning 62m; J Hanbury for Daithi Burke 67m; C Donnellan for N Burke 68m; T Monaghan (0-1) for J Flynn 69m; S Loftus for Killeen 70m
Tipperary: C Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy, R Maher (0-2, 2f), P Maher; B Maher (0-1), J Forde; D McCormack, M Breen (0-2), S O'Brien, N McGrath (0-2), J O'Dwyer (0-1, 1f), J McGrath (0-6, 5f) Subs: N Maher for O'Brien 32m; Patrick Maher for O'Dwyer 45m; T Hamill for Cahill 59m; A Flynn for Forde 59m, D Quinn for N McGrath;
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork)