Saturday 14 December 2019

Wonderful Walsh wizardry keeps Galway dreams alive

Galway 4-17 Tipperary 4-12 - All-Ireland SFC qualifier

Galway's Michael Lundy scores his side's third goal of the game
Galway's Michael Lundy scores his side's third goal of the game
Peter Acheson, Tipperary, in action against Michael Lundy, Galway
Barry Grogan, Tipperary, with support from team-mate Ian Fahey, in action against Paul Varley, Galway
Michael Lundy, Galway, in action against Ciarán McDonald, Tipperary
Fontáin Ó Curraoin, Galway, shoots to score his side's first goal of the game despite the attempts of Robbie Kiely, left, and John Coghlan, Tipperary

Cliona Foley

Given the scoreline and the two counties involved, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a hurling game, not a dramatic shoot-out for the right to take on Kerry in the quarter-finals.

A high-scoring game was expected but no one could have predicted the bizarre narrative that unfolded in sunny Tullamore.

When the dust settled just five points separated the sides, yet Galway, with a two-goal blitz on either side of half-time, led by 14 points in the third quarter.

How they managed to retreat into their shell and concede three goals within eight minutes during the dying stages will be the subject of many a post-mortem around Ballybrit in the coming days, but they got the job done.

The Tribesmen got Galway Race Week off to the perfect start by reaching football's last eight for the first time in six years, and the fact that they will be facing Kerry again stirred memories of their famous sodden, floodlit clash in 2008.

Michael Meehan starred that day and fleet-footed Shane Walsh showed here exactly why he's so heavily tipped to succeed him.

Galway may have collapsed defensively in the later stages but when Danny Cummins and Michael Lundy fired in a goal apiece within two minutes of the restart to dramatically put them 4-8 to 0-7 ahead, the image of Germany trouncing Brazil immediately sprang to mind.

Tipperary may not have similar status in Gaelic football terms but their brave odyssey this summer, when they almost took out Cork and beat Longford and Laois, had signalled that their bid to join the top echelons was legitimate. But, after dominating the first 30 minutes and wasting far too many scoring chances, the sort of defensive naivety that saw them concede four goals to Laois came back to haunt them.

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Both sides packed their defence for the first half and it was 0-6 apiece, thanks to an outrageous piece of individual skill from Walsh, when Tipp were hit with the first rabbit punch, and in controversial circumstances.

Barry Grogan looked to have been fouled by Finian Hanley but referee Barry Cassidy gave a free-out and it resulted in Michael Martin and Paul Conroy combining to put Fiontan O Curraoin through for Galway's first goal.

It was their first in three games but six minutes later, on the stroke of half-time, after Michael Quinlivan coughed up possession, they had another courtesy of Tom Flynn. Tipperary went in like woozy boxers stumbling for their corner, but whatever was said at half-time about keeping their guard up didn't work.

Just 50 seconds after the restart, they were on the ropes and reeling after Michael Lundy squared a great ball to Cummins who dummied calmly before producing a clinical finish.

Within another minute the punch-drunk Munster men had coughed up a fourth goal to Lundy.

To their credit, they never quit. Manager Peter Creedon had decided to take off the defensive shackles for the second half, reckoning they had nothing to lose.

It may have backfired immediately but substitutes like Hugh Coghlan and Brian Mulvihill helped them go down with some pride, despite losing Steven O'Brien to a black card and being lucky not to lose Brian Fox to another.

When they ran at Galway it paid dividends, reaping a first goal from Fox in the 42nd minute and three more in the last 10 minutes, including a Sweeney penalty.

But Tipp's problem was that, apart from young Colin O'Riordan and Peter Acheson, who were both heroic, few of their players found top form on the biggest day of their year.

Sweeney, double-teamed by Galway's excellent full-back line, didn't score from play.

Fox was denied his usual playmaking role and, in the first half, their build-up and counter-attack was far too slow into a two-man full-forward line.

CONTRAST

In contrast, all but one of Galway's zippy front eight scored with 4-14 from play. The only one who didn't make a mark was James Kavanagh, who was marked by teenage wing-back O'Riordan who shot 1-2 and is a serious contender for Young Player of the Year.

Walsh's deceptively languid style provided the kind of searing pace Tipp couldn't match and they had a player of Sean Armstrong's calibre to come in.

Corofin dual star Daithi Burke also proved an excellent replacement for injured centre-back Gary O'Donnell in their influential half-back line.

By reaching the last round for the second time in three years, Tipperary proved they can be contenders alright, but if they want to be anything more they simply cannot keep walking into sucker punches.

Scorers – Galway: S Walsh 0-5 (3fs), D Cummins, M Lundy 1-1 each, P Conroy, M Martin 0-3 each, F O Curraoin, T Flynn 1-0 each, S Armstrong 0-2, P Varley, D Comer 0-1 each. Tipperary: C Sweeney 1-4 (4fs, 1-0pen), C O'Riordan 1-2, B Fox, B Mulvihill 1-0 each, P Acheson 0-2, S O'Brien, G Hannigan, M Quinlivan , B Grogan 0-1 each.

Galway – T Healy 8; D O'Neill 7, F Hanley 8, J Moore 8; G Bradshaw 8, G O'Donnell 7, P Varley 9; F O Curraoin 7, T Flynn 8; M Lundy 8, S Walsh 9, J Kavanagh 6; M Martin 7, P Conroy 8, D Cummins 7. Subs: D Burke 7 for O'Donnell (33), S Armstrong 8 for Cummins (51), A Varley 7 for Martin (56), J O'Brien 6 for Lundy (58), D Comer 7 for Kavanagh (58), E Hoare for Walsh (69).

Tipperary – P Fitzgerald 7; C McDonald 5, J Coghlan 5, P Codd 6; C O'Riordan 8, R Kiely 5, G Mulhair 5; S O'Brien 7, G Hannigan 6; M Quinlivan 5, B Fox 6, P Acheson 8; C Sweeney 6, B Grogan 6, P Austin 6. Subs: I Fahey 5 for Mulhair (31), C Kennedy 7 for Quinlivan (43), A Campbell 6 for Grogan (50), H Coghlan 8 for O'Brien (BC, 54), B Mulvihill for Fahey (62), S Flynn 6 for Austin (63).

Ref – B Cassidy (Derry)

 

Game at a glance

Man of the Match

Shane Walsh (Galway)

Walsh oozed class from start to finish with his pace, passing and finishing impressing.

Turning Point

Galway's first two goals were scored in the five minutes before half-time, with the second pair rattled in within two minutes of the restart. Game over.

Talking Point

The remarkable 37 scores and what that said about both sides' defences. Given the counties that were involved, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a hurling result.

Magic Moment

When Conroy miskicked a '45' after 29 minutes, it flew in low but Walsh killed it with his right boot, flicked it up, swivelled and pointed with his left.

Ref Watch

Barry Cassidy got a few pivotal decisions wrong. He gave a questionable free-out against Grogan that led to Galway's first goal and Brian Fox should surely have gotten a black card, rather than a yellow, for blatantly dragging down James Kavanagh.

What They Said

Alan Mulholland (Galway manager):

"We're delighted to get through, but to let in four goals when we were in total control of the game was disappointing. If you're going to play Kerry in Croke Park, you can't defend like we did in the last 20 minutes."

Peter Creedon (Tipperary manager):

"I think we've arrived as a serious outfit. We have to tidy up our defending but we'll be much stronger and the boys will be a year older and I think we'll be a handful next year."

Match Statistics

Wides

Galway 9 (4 in first half)

Tipperary 11 (8)

Frees

Galway 18 (10)

Tipperary 19 (10)

Black Cards

Galway 0

Tipperary 1 (O'Brien 52)

Yellow Cards

Galway 2 (Flynn 51, Hanley 71)

Tipperary 2 (Grogan 28, Fox 38)

What's Next?

Galway play Kerry in the All-Ireland quarter-finals on Sunday, while Tipperary's 2014 odyssey is finally over.

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