Galway rip up the script with explosive display
What an eye-opener at the Gaelic Grounds. I still believe that Tipperary are the team to beat in the summer, but after watching Galway in the flesh, they're a very close second.
You'd still be a fool to write Tipp off, though. The McGraths and 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer won't be as poor again, they were missing Séamus Callanan, 'Bonnar' Maher has to come back into the mix fully and Jason Forde looked like a man feeling that suspension cloud hanging over his head.
I can't see that half-back line being as bad again, but Galway asked Tipp questions that other counties should take note of.
Just when we thought Tipp were invincible, Galway gave what I can only describe as an explosive performance. They've blown the All-Ireland race wide open.
Tipp never showed up, so were they starting to believe their own hype?
There are two main ways to beat Tipp: nullify that full-forward line and put their half-back line on the back foot. Galway achieved both and, consequently, there wasn't any good ball going in to the full-forwards because the half-backs were struggling.
Galway have the right mix of strength, speed and skill. Both teams have big men in their ranks, but I couldn't get over the size of the Galway men as they stood to meet President Higgins before the game.
Micheál Donoghue, their astute manager, looks to have pulled off a real coup by poaching Polish strength and conditioning coach Lukasz Kirszenstein from Tipperary. You could see Kirszenstein's fingerprints all over that Galway performance.
Cathal Whelan was brilliant, taking Cathal Barrett for five points. Jason Flynn was superb as well and when is the last time you saw Michael Cahill get that kind of runaround? The key for Galway, however, is the positioning of Joe Canning at No 11. Donoghue is building his team around Joe and there was some clever interchanging with Joseph Cooney.
Mannion stayed at half-forward, he never moved out of that position, and he had the legs to trouble Pádraic Maher, like Kilkenny's Eddie Brennan used to do.
Joe was almost dropping deep as a third midfielder and that created a huge problem for Ronan Maher, who wasn't sure if he should follow him or hold the centre-back position.
When Joe did come out, David Burke went in and this movement asked serious questions of Tipp.
People should also remember, and this has gone generally unnoticed, that in 2011 Galway won minor and U-21 All-Ireland titles.
We've heard so much about the Clare teams that won U-21 crowns, Limerick two years ago, how Waterford won the minor in 2013 and the U-21 last year. We've heard about Tipp's U-21 crop from 2010 and how they're mature now, and how Wexford have been hoovering up Leinster U-21 titles.
But look back on those Galway sides in 2011. David Burke, Johnny Coen, Gearoid McInerney and Conor Cooney were U-21s. In the minor ranks you had Paul Killeen, John Hanbury, Padraig Mannion, Jason Flynn, Johnny Glynn and Adrian Tuohy, all players very much to the fore now.
Galway also have defenders who can nullify Tipp's forwards. Dáithí Burke and Tuohy are two top-class operators. Burke, on the edge of the square, had 'Bubbles' to start with, before John McGrath went in, while Tuohy picked up McGrath when he was corner-forward.
Burke and Tuohy are fast, tight and sticky. They also have experience of playing in the half-back line, which makes them capable under aerial ball.
I'd still worry for Galway if one of their main defenders gets injured. Unlike up front, they don't have that same cover back there.
It's not the ideal scenario for Tipp to ship a heavy beating like that in a national final, but Michael Ryan will be thinking to himself 'I have the stick to beat them with now'.
It could be an ideal situation for Tipp because, and mea culpa here, there was a feeling that they were way ahead of the pack, and possibly the new Kilkenny.
Perhaps we were a tad premature in that assertion.
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