Galway’s destruction of Tipp adds new layer of intrigue to hurling summer
It's hard to imagine any other team putting such hurt on the All-Ireland champions
Galway captain David Burke receives the cup from President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Whatever way you called this league final, you didn’t call it this way. If you imagined one team winning by 16 points, you didn’t reckon on it being Galway. If you predicted three points from play as the day’s work for a full-forward line, it wasn’t Tipperary’s you had in mind. Or if it was, you were mighty quiet about it.
Where to start with a scoreline that reads Galway 3-21 Tipperary 0-14? The cementing of Galway’s claims come the summer seems as good a place as any.
They leapfrogged Waterford in some of the betting books after this, presumably because it’s hard to imagine Waterford – or anyone else – putting this sort of hurt on Tipp. Micheál Donoghue’s side very obviously have the number of the All-Ireland champions and whatever else the championship contains, we have to hope it throws the pair of them together again at some stage.
The proviso being, of course, that Tipp don’t turn up for any rematch the sort of wan pastiche of themselves that they were here. This was their lowest scoring return in a game since February 2015. Michael Ryan picked a workhorse half-forward line, only to see it outworked and outhorsed by the Galway half-backs. Pádraic Mannion, Gearóid McInerney and Aidan Harte formed the springboard and the rest of the Galway display bounced accordingly.
Joe Canning was in lordly form, especially in the first half when Galway were struggling a little to turn the water of their dominance into the wine of a decent lead. At a point in the game where they were doing their best to keep Tipperary interested with a string of wides and balls dropped short, Canning was generally unerring. Inside, Jason Flynn and Conor Whelan made traffic cones of the Tipp full-back line.
It all added up to a first league title for Galway since 2010 and the third year in a row that Division 1B has provided the league champions. For Donoghue, it meant a league campaign that could have fizzled out to nothing after the defeat at home to Wexford on February 19th has done the exact opposite. On the Galway hurling roulette wheel, this was a day when the ball stopped where it was supposed to.
“We know Galway have been inconsistent,” said Donoghue afterwards. “It’s been levelled at us by certain media and to be honest, we’re totally comfortable with that. We know we’re inconsistent. But the only way out of that is to work hard and that’s what we’ve been doing.
“It’s one step at a time. If you go back to the Wexford game, these players got absolutely lacerated in Galway. We knew there were a couple of things we weren’t happy with but we kept working hard.
“The fact that we’ve won it now, my message isn’t going to change. What we wanted from the league was to stay in it as close to the Dublin game as possible. We wanted competitive games and it’s all about Dublin on May 28th now. It’s been a long trek for the lads and they deserve that.”
This was one of those games where the margin was purely at the whim of the winners. Tipp never really had a say. Galway led by 0-11 to 0-5 at half-time and it was only down to their wastefulness that they remained in sight at all. They pucked 11 wides in the first half alone, dropped three balls into Darren Gleeson’s hand and saw two goal chances denied.
At the other end, Tipp were unrecognisable. John McGrath was on the frees in Seamus Callanan’s absence and missed four before half-time. John O’Dwyer took over for the second half but was substituted nine minutes after the restart. Noel McGrath missed a handful of shots he’d normally pot in his sleep. It was out-of-body stuff.
“No, I can’t explain where it all went wrong,” said Michael Ryan afterwards. That was a complete non-show from us, to be honest. We certainly weren’t prepared for that kind of a game – we weren’t prepared for any kind of a game with that kind of a performance.
“It was the worst performance we’ve had in the length of time I’ve been looking after these boys. It’s very disappointing in a national final, that we’d choose today to come up with one of those.”
If the game was under a reasonably secure lock at half-time, it only took a minute after the break to throw away the key. Mickey Cahill miscontrolled a hopping ball on the Tipp 20-metre line and Flynn was away and gone it before he could recover. His finish was high to Gleeson’s left and just like that, Galway had a nine-point lead that was altogether more fitting to the day. Game, set and match with 34 minutes still to play.
By the end, Flynn had another and Cahill had been called to the line. It was surely only numbers that saved Cathal Barrett in the other corner from the same fate. Ditto nearly all but Brendan Maher on the Tipp side. A curious performance all around.
Galway won’t give them a backward glance though. They will have a say in the summer’s doings, we can be fairly sure of that.