Goals lift Tipperary as Thurles bogey derails Galway
Tipperary 2-18 Galway 0-20
It's not quite a graveyard for them but Thurles and Galway hurling victories just don't seem to fit in the same sentence any more.
For the sixth successive game at senior level - three championship and three league - they found themselves on the receiving end in Semple Stadium.
Two successive championship exits, to Clare and Tipperary in 2013 and 2014, a further championship defeat in John McIntyre's last game as manager to Waterford in 2011, a league semi-final loss to Kilkenny, a regular league game against Tipperary three years back and now this makes for uncomfortable reading.
The 2010 league final win over Cork was the last time they found joy in the place.
Even their U-21s have struggled in hurling's most popular venue. They may have won their last All-Ireland in the grade there in 2011 with a comprehensive victory over Dublin but since then they have lost three successive semi-finals. Incorporate that and the sequence, between senior and U-21, is eight games.
Maybe it doesn't amount to much but their manager Anthony Cunningham had referenced it a week earlier after their opening round win over Clare in Pearse Stadium, clearly an irritating bogey they were keen to lay to rest yesterday.
Cunningham has grown accustomed to the boom and bust nature of Galway performances in the early stages of the league.
This was much less 'bust' than others though. They fell 10 points behind on 45 minutes when Seamie Callanan struck for an opportunist and skilfully taken goal, the slightest nudge into John Hanbury's back as they pursued John McGrath's hopeful delivery enough to put the Galway full-back off.
Coming just 10 minutes after John O'Dwyer's expert finish seconds after the restart, courtesy of John McGrath deft kick-pass along the ground, it should have made the visitors' task close to impossible.
But they took it on manfully, gaining control across their half-back line - where David Collins was immense - and getting return from Joseph Cooney's posting to full-forward, from where he nabbed three points.
But after closing the gap to three with six unanswered points between the 52nd and 62nd minutes, they weakened their grip ever so slightly to allow Tipperary to breathe.
A puff of air was all they really required and so it was with wides from Johnny Glynn and Cathal Mannion from good positions and Brendan Maher's first point of the day at the other end easing the growing pressure.
The home side required a smart Darren Gleeson save from Cooney late on to prevent further leakage. But after such a poor opening show against Dublin seven days earlier, this was more urgent from Tipperary.
They have a lot to be thankful to Padraic Maher for, the centre-back so commanding in the second half as Galway poured through from a dominant midfield, where Kieran Bergin had been so effective before the break.
Maher's capacity to step back and read the play with intelligence was a feature in a strong rearguard action as the wind strengthened.
Tipp manager Eamon O'Shea played down the outcome, experience teaching him all he needs to know about February hurling.
"Make no judgments until the ball speeds up. Then make all the judgements you want," he cautioned.
"I'm not too worked up about them but you like your league games to reflect something, you think you're doing right. I think we're doing things okay. When it doesn't reflect it, you get down. That's what bothers you rather than the result because those games could go either way."
They hadn't done anything different after Dublin in preparation for this game because, as O'Shea stressed, "you don't do things differently when you're doing the right thing".
"You'll never get an evenness in players at this time of the year, because players are going up and down in terms of where they're at," he continued. "There's no fluidity in their play, therefore no pattern. And that's what you see in the league."
Still Galway would have felt they were in a strong position at half-time trailing by just three points, 0-14 to 0-11.
With Brendan Maher playing an industrious role across the half-forward line Tipperary eventually made the strong wind count and led by 0-14 to 0-9 through Bergin's third point as half-time approached, but a Jason Flynn sideline and free in added-time appeared to give Galway the necessary momentum as they left the field.
The goals really disappointed Cunningham.
"The defence from midfield back have to put their hand up and say those two goals can't happen," he said.
Fatigue in some of his players may also have been a factor. "Some of our players have a lot of hurling done, even at this early stage. A lot of them are at college or U-21 and Jason (Flynn), Dean (Higgins), James Regan and Padraig Brehony looked a bit tired. That's going to happen in these matches.
"It was a step up in physicality (from Clare). You would have been happy with the level of the game."
O'Dwyer was a big influence as the game wore on for Tipperary, one memorable catch near the end creating the insurance score from Conor Kenny.
Some of Callanan's touches thrilled the 4,176 crowd on a bitterly cold day, especially his first-half point that he instinctively knocked over with the ball still in mid-flight off a break. O'Shea will also be pleased that both wing-backs, Michael Breen and Ronan Maher, adapted well under pressure.
Man of the Match: Padraic Maher (Tipp)
Scorers - Tipperary: S Callanan 1-3 (0-2fs), J O'Dwyer 1-1, K Bergin, J Forde 0-3 each, J McGrath 0-2, G Ryan, D Gleeson (f), R Maher, B Maher, D Maher, C Kenny 0-1 each. Galway - J Flynn 0-4 (3fs, 1 sl), J Cooney, C Mannion 0-3 each, P Brehony J Regan, A Smith (1f) 0-2 each, I Tannian, J Glynn, C Barrett (own point), B Molloy 0-1 each.
Tipperary - D Gleeson 8; C Barrett 7, P Curran 6, C O'Brien 8; M Breen 7,P Maher 8, R Maher 7; K Bergin 7, G Ryan 6; D Maher 6, J Forde 7, B Maher 7; J O'Dwyer 8, S Callanan 7, J McGrath 7. Subs: J Woodlock 5 for Ryan (ht), C Kenny 6 for D Maher (41), N McGrath 5 for McGrath, J Meagher for Bergin (69).
Galway - C Callanan 7; J Coen 7, J Hanbury 7, P Mannion 6; G McInerney 7, D Collins 8, I Tannian 7; J Cooney 7, A Smith 7; P Brehony 6, C Mannion 7, D Higgins 5; J Regan 6, J Flynn 7, J Glynn 7. Subs: K Hynes 5 for Brehony (42), G Lally 7 for Higgins (47), B Molloy 6 for Regan (51), A Harte for Flynn (68).
Ref - J McGrath (Westmeath)
l A minute's silence was observed beforehand for former Tipperary GAA secretary Tommy Barrett, who died in January.