Galway strain every sinew to end Tipperary’s double dream

Canning’s memorable winning point the defining image of a riveting if fraught encounter

Galway’s Johnny Coen tackles  Michael Cahill of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Galway’s Johnny Coen tackles Michael Cahill of Tipperary during the All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

GALWAY 0-22 TIPPERARY 1-18

In the end no-one was entirely right about this cliffhanger of a match. There were the threads of predictability – Galway maintained their fine season in a match too close to call until the very end and Joe Canning produced spectacular moments – but they all had to wait until the 74th minute to weave together into the only thing that matters, the result.

For the third year in succession a semi-final between these counties ended with a point separating them and, on this occasion, it was the champions who found themselves on the wrong side of that wafer-thin margin.

It was elemental stuff with hits that resounded as vibrantly as earthquakes – Gearóid McInerney planting Pádraic Maher and Canning detonating one on Michael Breen.

It also turned some of the most cherished pre-match assumptions on their heads: Galway’s rickety defending in the first half, Brendan Maher’s emergence as the best centrefielder ahead of David Burke and for all of his later rain-making, Canning’s fitful first half.

Erasing that memory, his astounding winner with the sides level for the 12th time was hit in the last minute with a retinue of markers penning him in on the Cusack Stand sideline. It lifted Galway above the insecurities that had plagued them for much of the match and into the All-Ireland final where they will hope to redeem 29 years of longing for a fifth title.

There was just about time for John O’Dwyer to see his frantic effort to force a replay tail away to the left but in the end the Leinster champions just about deserved to get across the line in a match which saw both teams struggle to produce their best.

Canning’s heroics were the culmination of a final quarter in which he did all the scoring for Galway, taking them from 0-15 to 0-22 with a combination of long-range free-taking and some wonderful points from play. In the 64th minute, on that fateful right wing, he killed a poor clearance dead on his stick and returned it back over the bar to push his team into a 0-20 to 1-16 lead.

For those convinced that there was something different about the team this year, this All-Ireland hurling semi-final did not make easy viewing. Tipperary, with all the relaxed class of champions, opened well to lead 0-4 to 0-1 by the eighth minute.

Their forwards maintained the form of the quarter-final by menacing the opposition and Séamus Kennedy stormed forward from wing back to chip in a score whereas Galway looked hesitant.

A breakdown

They did settle and find a scoring touch of their own, mostly through the agency of Conor Whelan and Conor Cooney but there were metaphorical as well as – on a cold, slate-grey afternoon – literal clouds. Canning struggled to get into the game let alone dominate it, missing from the placed ball and from play.

His first two frees did however help to push Galway three ahead, 0-8 to 0-5, but all was not well. Their full-back line, reckoned to be one of the most conspicuous advantages they had, at times appeared to be on the brink of a breakdown.

Daithi Burke’s touch was hesitant and blunt and beside him Adrian Tuohy reflected this nervousness getting caught by John McGrath for a chance that went wide.

They eventually settled but the team’s half backs were steadier with McInerney putting in a good shift once the discomfort of Noel McGrath’s switch to centre forward had passed. On either side Pádraic Mannion and Aidan Harte were solid in countering the masters of industry Bonner Maher and Dan McCormack.

The Tipp comeback began with captain Pádraic Maher outreaching Niall Burke to a cleared ball, which he then sent whistling over the bar. All Galway’s defensive anxieties merged in the following minutes.

Firstly, Séamus Callanan mishit a shot, which ran towards his namesake Colm in the Galway goal. The latter’s unconvincing attempt to clear the ball ran towards some of his defenders but Tuohy failed to control it and the upshot was John McGrath scrambling a 23rd-minute goal to put the champions ahead.

The momentum swing was threatening. Three minutes later Callanan redeemed himself with a crucial save after Daithí Burke had contrived to fumble a ball under no pressure and with Séamus Callanan in the neighbourhood.

Ultimately Galway were glad to get to the break just a point in arrears, 0-12 to 1-10.

Tit-for-tat scoring predominated in the second half but the pressure on everyone began to build and widess and inaccuracies followed. Callanan saved from John McGrath only for Seamie Callanan to miss the 65. He would miss another and in between Canning potted his.

Galway had the initiative, leading for most of the time and finding big scores – Joseph Cooney launching free from his own 45 – but David Burke and Whelan had bad wides and Joseph Cooney a thoughtless one, as the clock ticked towards its destination.

Micheál Donoghue will hope that this highly stressful outing will purge his team for the final where they will face further unease playing either a county they have yet to beat in an All-Ireland or a county they haven’t beaten at all in championship.

Deep breaths.

GALWAY: 1 C Callanan; 2 A Tuohy, 3 D Burke, 4 J Hanbury; 5 P Mannion, 6 G McInerney, 7 A Harte; 8 J Coen (0-2), 9 D Burke (capt); 14 N Burke, 11 J Canning (0-11, six frees, one lineball, one 65), 12 J Cooney (0-2, one free); 13 C Whelan (0-4), 15 C Cooney (0-2), 10 C Mannion (0-1). Subs: 22 J Flynn for N Burke (45 mins), 26 J Glynn for C Mannion (53 mins), 24 S Moloney for C Cooney (70 mins).

TIPPERARY: 1 D Gleeson; 2 D Maher, 3 J Barry, 4 M Cahill; 5 S Kennedy (0-1), 6 R Maher, 7 P Maher (capt.; 0-2); 8 B Maher (0-3, two frees), 9 M Breen; 10 D McCormack 11 N McGrath (0-2), 11 P Maher; 15 J McGrath (1-1), 14 S Callanan (0-5, three frees), 13 J O’Dwyer (0-3). Subs: 18 J Forde (0-1) for Breen (34 mins), 26 N O’Meara for Forde (62 mins).

Referee: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)

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