Maher dictates another tale of woe for Galway
Tipp hold nerve to rekindle All-Ireland ambitions
LIAM Sheedy wore the look of a man who just had his shoulders relieved of the heavy load which had stubbornly sat there since the last Sunday in May.
That was the day that Tipperary's carefully constructed championship plans were swamped by a Leeside flood as Cork opened the sluice gates and swept all before them. It left Tipperary with the sizeable challenge of sifting through the wreckage, salvaging what they could and rebuilding their All-Ireland dreams on new foundations.
The success of that operation became apparent in Croke Park as Tipperary held their nerve over the closing minutes and hit Galway for three points to secure a semi-final clash with Waterford on August 15. Tipperary's win may have been achieved by the bare minimum but, in many ways, that made it all the more satisfactory as it proved that their resolve was very much intact.
"You want to be in Croke Park in mid-August," said Sheedy. "It looked a long way off for us at the end of May but thankfully we'll be there now."
It was another heartbreaking afternoon for Galway as their run without a win in Croke Park extended to five years. For the second successive year, Galway had lost a quarter-final by a point after putting themselves in a winning position.
But similar to the footballers, who blew two-point leads against Sligo and Wexford, the hurlers tensed up on home stretch, failing to score from the 61st minute when sub Aongus Callanan put them two points clear. Tipperary didn't score again until the 68th minute but when sub John O'Brien pointed, it gave them a new impetus and Ger Ryan and Lar Corbett landed two more in stoppage time to edge them in front.
Galway had one late stab at salvation when Ger Farragher's long-range free dropped in front of the Tipperary goal but the ensuing stalemate was all to Tipperary's advantage before referee James Owens blew the final whistle.
Galway manager John McIntyre claimed afterwards that Niall Healy had received a bang, which left him with a bloodied mouth as he became involved in a desperate tussle for the ball. Galway felt he should have got a free in but the referee saw it differently, much to Tipperary's relief.
They had prevailed in a massively entertaining game which was level on no fewer than 10 occasions. The closeness of the scoring, and the manner in which the lead changed hands, provided a fascinating spectacle and while the error rate was high on both sides, it was more than compensated for by the sheer drama.
The perfect conditions provided the backdrop for a high-octane encounter between two teams who tend to put up big scores against each other. And so it was again yesterday with Tipperary finally nudging home by a single score from a combined total of 39.
It left Galway with a horrible empty feeling, one which won't be helped by the evidence from the post-mortem which will inevitably take place. They restricted Tipperary to a single point between the 49th and 68th minutes, during which they helped they helped themselves to 1-4, yet failed to see the job through to a successful conclusion.
The goal came in the 51st minute when Joe Canning, who was adjudged to have been held as he bore down on the Tipp goal, smacked a penalty to the net. Two points from impressive sub Kevin Hynes and one each from Damien Hayes and Aongus Callanan steered Galway into what looked to be winning territory only to lose their way on the run-in.
Of course there was more to it than that. Tipperary's dogged persistence in the closing minutes prised the initiative away from Galway who made a number of mistakes which cost them dearly.
But then both defences conceded scores which they would have expected to avoid. Seamus Callanan scored a simple goal before half-time when a flick by Noel McGrath split the Galway defence and, two minutes into the second half, Damien Hayes capitalised on an error by Paul Curran to whip the ball home.
It was an uncharacteristic mistake by Curran who did well in his battle with Joe Canning. Restored to free-taking duties, Canning was Galway's top scorer on 1-5, all of which came from placed balls. Once again the deliveries in his direction lacked accuracy but he also found Curran a very difficult opponent who will have been delighted to keep his vaunted opponent scoreless from play.
Damien Hayes and Eanna Ryan provided Galway's main scoring threat from open play, making and exploiting openings as they notched a total of 2-4 between them. Sub Kevin Hayes did well too.
Galway lined out without injured centre-forward Cyril Donnellan whose ability to break up play was badly missed. At the other end, Ger Ryan had a very productive afternoon while Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly and subs Seamus Callanan and John O'Brien also contributed handsomely to the victory.
Shane McGrath, who started at centre-forward, moved to midfield when Callanan replaced David Young in the 31st minute and made a big impact. However, it was Tipperary's No 8 Brendan Maher who did best of all. His energy and workrate, allied to his fetching and delivering, made him a hugely significant figure and he also chipped in with a crucial point in either half.
Eanna Ryan's goal in the 10th minute was cancelled out by an Eoin Kelly strike in the 19th minute before Galway scored six unanswered points to lead by three after 32 minutes. But Tipp pared two back before Callanan pounced for their second goal just before half-time to leave them 2-8 to 1-9 ahead at the break.
Ger Ryan's 43rd-minute goal came in the middle of a fertile spell for Tipperary which took them four points clear (3-13 to 2-12) after 49 minutes. Then it was Galway's turn to enjoy a period of dominance which left them well placed to claim a semi-final slot as the game ticked towards the end of normal time.
When the pressure was at its most intense in the final few minutes, it was Tipperary who had the composure to score three points which sunk Galway and re-awakened their own All-Ireland ambitions in a very meaningful way.
Scorers -- Tipperary: E Kelly 1-7 (0-6f), G Ryan 1-2, S Callanan 1-0, L Corbett 0-3, B Maher 0-2, Patrick Maher, N McGrath, J O'Brien 0-1 each. Galway: J Canning 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-3f, 0-1 '65', 0-1 line ball), D Hayes 1-3, E Ryan 1-1, G Farragher, K Hynes 0-2 each, I Tannian, D Burke, A Callanan 0-1 each.
Tipperary -- B Cummins 7; P Stapleton 7, P Curran 8, M Cahill 7; D Fanning 7, C O'Mahony 8, Padraic Maher 7; Brendan Maher 9, D Young 5; G Ryan 8, Patrick Maher 6, S McGrath 7; N McGrath 5, L Corbett 7, E Kelly 7. Subs: S Callanan 7 for Young (31), J O'Brien 7 for N McGrath (54), C O'Brien for Fanning (63), P Bourke for Patrick Maher (66).
Galway -- C Callanan 7; D Joyce 7, S Kavanagh 7, O Canning 7; D Barry 7, T Og Regan 8, D Collins 6; G Farragher 7, D Burke 6; E Ryan 7, K Hayes 5, A Smith 6; D Hayes 8, J Canning 6, I Tannian 5. Subs: K Hynes 8 for K Hayes (51), A Callanan 7 for Ryan (54), J Lee for O Canning (68), N Healy for Smith (69).
REF -- J Owens (Wexford).