McGrath goal turns tide in Tipperary's favour


NHL DIVISION ONE: Tipperary 2-17 Galway 0-14:A GAME that fits all too snugly into the cliché. Galway, vibrant and inventive in the first half, led by less than they should have. Tipperary looked as if they had spent the last week coalmining.

Half-time. Whatever was said was said. Galway scored just once after the break.

A game of two halves. Sorry.

"Words are cheap, at the end of the day it is hurling that counts," said Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy when asked afterwards about his interval oration. "In fairness, we were disappointed with the first-half performance, but there was a stiff enough breeze down there. Even allowing for that, we didn't attack the ball at all. Thankfully, there was a second half!"

The first half had seemingly exposed a shyness about Tipperary which one assumed was long gone. Galway moved the ball into space unimpeded and having cantered into a two-point lead were surprised to find themselves hauled back when a crafty Eoin Kelly 65 was deflected smartly into the net by John O'Brien.

Game on, we thought, but we were wrong. Galway stretched their limbs and pulled away again.

Iarla Tannion was making hay in the corner and his points might have been supplemented by a wonderful goal when he took one touch on a dropping ball and then pulled. Brendan Cummins produced a save, however, which drew a warm ovation from the crowd of 6,080.

With Ger Farragher prompting from the middle and the spaces opening up all around, the game had the feel of a rout. Yet, Tipp just kept themselves in Galway's rear-view mirror. Lar Corbett, venturing out the field scavenging for all which wasn't reaching his full-forward office, was instrumental in keeping his side in touch with a few wonderful points.

"We were lucky to be within four points at half-time," said Sheedy afterwards. "We were lucky to get the goal, I mean, the goal was a great flick by Johnno, but we were not in a position where we were expecting a goal.

"We got the break then in the second half with the goal. A lot of positives to take out of that second half."

The goal which started the swing in the second half came off a piece of opportunism from young Noel McGrath who chased in after a high ball which spun off James Skehill's stick and on to the grass from where McGrath kicked it home. That was eight minutes or so into the second half and Tipp had three points posted already as a declaration of their intent.

Suddenly, Galway were trying to find the right gear . . . and failing. John McIntyre had spoken during the week about his side's tendency to lose focus. They provided him with a perfect demonstration yesterday.

The Galway manager didn't make himself available for comment after the game, but his voice could be heard ricocheting around the locked Galway dressingroom for some time after the finish.

Still, those who remember a similar dressing down in Pearse Park last spring will figure it always gets better when the Portumna contingent return and when John Lee eases into championship form. Lee made a brief appearance yesterday following his Fitzgibbon heroics.

McIntyre will know the loss of focus is a small crisis and there are good things on the way.

As for Sheedy, things have changed since his side's opening defeat to Dublin, but the objective remains the same.

"You have to remember that all of this is preparation for a championship. It doesn't change Tuesdays or Thursdays.

"It can't, though the lads fairly emptied the tank there by the end. We have played three weeks in a row and have another three in a row coming up. They are good competitive games, but it is championship we are looking at."

TIPPERARY:B Cummins; P Stapleton, P Maher, B Maher; D Fanning, C O'Mahony, S Maher; M Cahill (0-1), S McGrath, S Hennessy, S Callinan (0-2), J O Brien (1-1), E Kelly (0-7), L Corbett (0-3), N McGrath (1-2). Subs: T Hammersley (0-1) for S Hennessy 60 mins.

GALWAY:J Skehill; F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Joyce; D Collins, T Óg Regan, C Dervan; G Farragher (0-5), N Cahalan (0-1); A Callanan (0-2), C Donnellan (0-2), A Harte (0-1); I Tannion (0-2), J Gantley (0-1), D Burke. Subs: D Barry for A Harte 55 mins, KJ Lee for C Dervan 58 mins.

Referee:J Sexton (Cork).