Tribesmen on a high but Tipp can keep two-in-a-row ambitions alive
Fifteen weeks ago Tipperary went into the Allianz hurling League final at 4/7 to beat Galway (7/4). Tomorrow, Galway start as slight favourites (10/11) to beat the All-Ireland champions (11/10).
So what happened in the interim to sway public sentiment to such a degree and is it justified? The answer rests with Galway's 16-point win in the League final, their subsequent comfortable run through Leinster, Tipperary's defeat by Cork and continued problems with their defensive solidity.
As to whether that combination is enough to justify Galway's favouritism depends on your perspective. Personally, I have doubts.
Galway's League final win was so comprehensive that it cannot be ignored, but neither should it be overvalued.
Tipperary were without Seamus Callanan; 'Bonner' Maher was easing his way back after returning from overseas army duty, attackers John McGrath and 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer suffered a rare double-misfire, while the defence imploded.
Galway played well but this certainly wasn't the real Tipperary. The defeat clearly hit their confidence, which Cork subsequently exploited. Still, Tipperary are back in the semi-final and, as defending champions, will be thinking more of their better performances than the setbacks against Galway and Cork.
Galway had a trouble-free run through Leinster beating becalmed Dublin, out-of-their-depth Offaly and emerging Wexford. Michael Donoghue's men looked ultra-efficient all the way but one game against Kilkenny might have been more revealing about Galway that that entire campaign.
All three played sweepers, which allowed Galway to have an extra defender too. It made for a relatively easy life but it did not prepare them for the one-on-one battles they will encounter tomorrow.
The Tipperary attack will feel they have a lot to prove after their wipe-out in the League final so Galway defenders can expect a much different challenge to anything they experienced so far this summer.
For example, Tipperary hoisted far too many high deliveries in Gearoid McInerney's direction in the League final, so expect a more ground-based approach around him this time.
If the Galway defence has plenty to fear from Tipperary's frontline, the same applies at the other end. Ever more so, unless there's a marked improvement in the full-back line, which was easily unhinged by Galway, Cork and, more recently, Clare.
They need a massive improvement to have a realistic chance against a Galway attack that averaged 1-28 in their last five games. Interestingly, they failed to score a goal against Offaly or Wexford but then both had packed their defences.
Galway responded intelligently by picking points from long range, which helped take their total for the two games to 0-62.
With the exception of the League final, the Tipperary attack has been very productive too. Even when losing against Cork, they scored 1-26, a total that wins more games than it loses.
The similarity in scores (Galway 0-26 Tipperary 3-16 in 2015; Tipperary 2-19 Galway 2-18 last year) underlines just how evenly matched the sides are. And while the past isn't always a reliable guide to the future, there's no reason to believe it won't be very close again.
Public opinion is leaning towards a Galway win but it should not be forgotten that Tipperary are the reigning champions and well capable of restoring the power than took them there. They could switch it on and keep the two-in-a-row dream alive.