Tipperary 3-25 Galway 4-13
Tight-rope hurling at Semple Stadium, and after a brilliant 70-minute balancing act from both teams, only Tipperary are left standing, while Galway fall with no safety net.
With so much to lose, and gain, nerve had as much to say as skill, and in the end Tipp held their nerve and turned on the skill with vintage style, earning them a nine-point win when they trailed by six with 20 minutes to go.
With that comes another disappointing season for Galway, their hurling championship now over on the first Saturday of July.
An incredible 3-8 for Séamus Callanan was the standout performance, but veteran Lar Corbett chipped in with two crucial scores too, as did Noel McGrath with his 0-5.
Yet after countering each other in the first half – level at the turnaround – it was Galway who surged first in the second half, a goal from Johnny Glynn, their third of the evening, giving them a three-point advantage.
Soon, Galway surged again, Joe Canning picking out Glynn close to the Tipp goal, and despite the closeness of Pádraic Maher, Glynn made a superb fetch, and rattled the net again – Galway's fourth goal. That put Galway six points clear, with just over 20 minutes to go.
Tipp were bound to rally and soon did, Callanan attacking the Galway goal, and while his first shot was well saved, he made no mistake with the rebound. He added another free moments later and Tipp were back to within a point, 2-17 to Galway’s 4-12.
Then up stepped McGrath to level it up again, rewarding himself for his long-range point with a clenching of the fist – following, as if on cue, by an even more impressive score from Corbett, which edged Tipp a point back in front.
Who else but Canning to level it again, with just eight minutes to go, and the nerves of both teams now going through the shredding machine.
Still Corbett was holding his nerve, with a magical point to restore Tipp's marginal advantage. Callanan then added another free, perfectly low and accurate, and Tipp's advantage was up to two – soon extending to three with an incredible long-range point from McGrath. When substitute Kieran Bergin followed that with another Tipp point it seemed Galway's momentum, and nerve, was finally done.
It was done for sure when, on 69 minutes, Callanan burst through for his third goal – setting alight the home support in Semple Stadium. John O’Dwyer closed out the deal with his sixth point from play, and substitute Shane McGrath had the last word.
It was a vintage performance from a Tipperary side who came in touching the void of a record losing streak: two league finals, two big championship matches last year, and another one this year, again to Limerick. They started like a team intent on ending that streak, opening the pressure on Galway from the throw-in – with Callanan landing the opening score from a free.
For Galway, playing their third championship match in as many weekends, there was no slack start either: Iarla Tannion's long ball found Glynn, and he passed off to Jason Flynn who promptly rattled the Tipperary net.
That set the trend for a punch-for-punch first half. Tipp hit back with equal force on 13 minutes, when Gearoid Ryan’s ball was fired into the net by Callanan, briefly edging Tipp in front. Just over 10 minutes later Galway were level again, Glynn finding Canning in space, and his sweet point tied it up at 1-7 apiece.
After another exchange of points, Galway landed another hefty blow in the form of a second goal, from David Burke, his slightest of touches off another long free from Tannion enough to direct it into the Tipp net. At the same time Canning was certainly making his presence field, sweeping over a trademark sideline cut on 20 minutes that wooed the entire attendance of 18,467.
Again, another exchange of points, before Corbett, suddenly playing deep, sent a beautiful ball across the field, resulting in another free for Callanan. So he finished the half with 1-5, including four frees, and enough to draw Tipp level just in time for the break - 1-12 to Galway’s 2-9.
That set up the helter-skelter second half – but with Tipp digging deeper into their reserves of will and determination were deserving winners, and with that move on to the second round, with the prospect of a lot of hurling to be played yet. Galway are left to take stock of another disappointing season, and what changes, backroom or otherwise, will be taken to make things better for 2015.
TIPPERARY: D Gleeson; P Stapleton, Pádraic Maher, M Cahill; B Maher (capt), J Barry, C Barrett; R Maher, J Woodlock (0-1); G Ryan, Patrick Maher (0-1), N McGrath (0-5); J O'Dwyer (0-6), S Callanan (3-8, seven frees), L Corbett (0-2).
Subs: K Bergin (0-1) for R Maher (half-time), S McGrath (0-1) for Ryan (68 mins), J O'Brien for Corbett (70 mins).
GALWAY: C Callanan; F Moore, R Burke, D Collins; I Tannion, Daithí Burke, J Coen; A Smith, P Brehony (0-1); David Burke (1-0), J Canning (capt) (0-5, one sideline), C Mannion (0-2); J Flynn (1-0), C Cooney (0-4, all frees), J Glynn (2-0).
Subs: J Cooney for Brehony, D Glennon (0-1) for David Burke (both half-time), A Harte for Smith (44 mins), N Burke for Tannion (57 mins), D Hayes for Mannion (68 mins).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).