Sunday 25 March 2018

John Mullane: Galway's grit wins the day for epic victory

Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan waves a Tipperary effort at a point wide during yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final
Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan waves a Tipperary effort at a point wide during yesterday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final

John Mullane

God bless the senior hurlers of Galway and Tipperary.

Boy, did we need a good game of hurling and the counties delivered big time at Croke Park.

When the game is played like this, there's no better sport in the world.

Seamus Callanan's performance was majestic but Tipp's brilliant forward needed more support from those around him.

Tipp's other five forwards contributed four points from play between them and that was never going to be good enough.

One of the real stories of the day was Galway's remarkable character.

They came back from the body blows of conceding three goals to come roaring back into contention each time.

Much of the pre-match talk centred on Johnny Glynn but it was the players around him who shone brightest.

Conor Whelan, Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion hit ten points from play between them and took enormous pressure off Joe Canning's shoulders.


I thought Mannion was sensational, he's a gifted hurler, and the two Burkes, Daithí and David, were excellent.

Credit to Iarla Tannian, who was at sixes and sevens in the first half before stepping up with a big display after half-time.

Tannian didn't seem to know whether to follow Brendan Maher or hold the centre back position.

Galway conceded an awful lot of space in the first half and Callanan made hay for Tipp.

In fairness to Padraig Mannion, his marker, there was so much space for Callanan to exploit but Tannian positioned himself a bit closer to the D in the second half.

Galway can't afford to concede that type of space against Kilkenny in the final or TJ Reid will run riot.

The question now for Galway is whether Tannian holds his ground or elects to follow Richie Hogan out the field. It's one for Anthony Cunningham to ponder.

Tipperary's Achilles Heel came back to haunt them. At critical stages in the game, they couldn't win primary possession in the half-forward line. I felt that Lar Corbett and Noel McGrath should have been introduced sooner.

It just wasn't happening for the other Tipp forwards and if you'd told Callanan that he'd score 3-9 and end up on the losing side, he'd have sent for the men in white coats to take you away.

One of Tipp's other big problems was the fact that they were cleaned out at midfield, where Galway pair Andy Smith and David Burke were excellent.

But any analysis of Galway's display can't pass without mentioning goalkeeper Colm Callanan. I know he conceded three goals but without him, Galway wouldn't have won the game.

That save from Corbett was superb and he also kept out Tipp on three occasions in the space of a few seconds. There was a chance for Patrick 'Bonner' Maher, and while he hit it straight at Callanan, it proved a crucial save at a crucial time.

Joe had a decent enough game for Galway, I thought. He missed a few, including the penalty, but hit two from play and a sideline cut.

And he showed tremendous leadership in that final play, electing to pick out Shane Maloney with that crossfield, diagonal ball when he could have went for the score himself.

The post-mortem will begin in Tipperary, with Eamon O'Shea's reign at an end now, but seeing Noel McGrath back on the field, after everything he's been through, will provide some perspective.

I wouldn't be too hard on O'Shea in the final analysis. After all, he brought Tipp to two League finals and they were unlucky to lose both against Kilkenny.

They could have won the All-Ireland title last year, going within a HawkEye call of glory, and O'Shea can hold his head high as he steps away.

This summer, Tipp won the Munster championship, with nine players playing in their first provincial final.

They played in an epic game yesterday, coming up just short by a point, and while it could be the end of the road for a couple of Tipp players, there is a bright future in store all the same.

I might just give a shout to Anthony Cunningham this morning and see if he has the Lotto numbers for the midweek draw. It was a bold statement he made after the Leinster final, telling Brian Cody that he'd see him again in September.

But now that Galway are there, they have to finish the job.

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