Premier men's rehabilitation now complete
TIPPERARY are serious All-Ireland contenders again following yesterday's thrilling one-point victory against Galway. And fair play to them for sticking at it, because they were two points down with time running out before hitting three to win it.
This victory erases lingering memories of last year's All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny and puts them right back where they were 12 months ago before they had a huge tilt at the Cats.
After being hammered by Cork in Munster, Tipp were rehabilitated with two nice games, but beating Galway will bring them on a ton.
The bench is fierce important, too, and Seamus Callanan and Pa Bourke hurled well when they came in. David Young was played out of position at midfield, but that was rectified when Shane McGrath moved back there.
Tipp will start as favourites to beat Waterford in the semi-final on August 15 because they have better wrist hurlers.
I thought Galway would drive on towards the finish yesterday, but, even though Tipp creaked defensively all day, in the end Padraic Maher, Conor O'Mahony, Paddy Stapleton and Michael Cahill all came through.
I thought Brendan Maher had a great game at midfield; he was my man-of-the-match, and the boys in the half-forward line did their stuff, particularly Gearoid Ryan, who hails from the Templederry Kenyons, a club not hugely renowned.
Some might point the finger at Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan for a couple of Tipp's goals and, while he had a great league campaign, I'm not sure if he is as good as he was back then.
I wouldn't blame him though -- Patrick 'Bonnar' Maher gave a lovely pass to Eoin Kelly for Tipp's first goal and there was only one thing on Eoin's mind as he burst through. Tipp's second goal was crucial and Seamus Callanan is deadly at ghosting in behind defences like that.
When Noel McGrath flicked on that ball, Callanan had run 40 yards from deep and he was there to reap the rewards. You might wonder where the backs were, but nine times out of 10, the ball would have gone back the other way and Callanan's run would have been fruitless.
I thought the ref chickened out of awarding a throw-in on the 20-metre line right at the end. I don't think it was a penalty, but I he could have thrown it in and finished the game after that.
Galway manager John McIntyre was very emotional when interviewed after the game. I'd say he came from a dressing-room where Ollie Canning might have announced his retirement and I'd say there were tears.
Two or three years of serious work has now been eroded, but fair dues to John, Galway gave all they could and he was very proud of his players. He said the right words about Tipp also, that they deserved to win. It could have gone either way and, while hurling was the real winner, sport is cruel.
I really think McIntyre will stay. The hurling board should reappoint him and his management team. They've done a good job and okay, they were beaten yesterday, but they won a National League and the crowd is following them again. Tipp are as good a team as you're going to get, but Galway are challenging and are a top-three or four team.
Tipp will improve again from this and you have guys like Pa Bourke, Conor O'Brien, John O'Brien and Callanan pushing hard now. Young will challenge Declan Fanning for the No 5 shirt against Waterford as the game showed he struggles at midfield. It's like Shane McGrath in the forwards -- a fish out of water -- and the balance was much better when switches were made.
This defeat will haunt Galway, though, as it wasn't a Tipp goal that won it. Ollie Canning had to go off and that was key because he's deadly at sweeping up ball.
And so we're left with two great semi-finals. Kilkenny will be favourites to beat Cork, who did enough to get past Antrim. There's another big game in Cork and they will rise to Kilkenny, but for me, another Kilkenny versus Tipperary final is on the cards.