Allianz NHL Final Match Reports

Corbett’s cracker tips balance


Tipperary 3-18, Galway 3-16

By Jim O’Sullivan

NOT a red card in sight. Instead, a cracking contest in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday, played in the fine spirit which embellishes the game of hurling when showcased at its best and, by general consensus, the Allianz National League title was won by the best team on the day.

Tipperary succeeded primarily because they had the better defence and when it mattered most, the greater scoring power, personified by Lar Corbett’s brilliance at full-forward in the second half and the opportunism of Seamus Butler on the right wing.

If anything, the 59th-minute goal by Corbett marked a turning point in the game, even though it was to balance on a see-saw all the way to its thrilling finish.

It came straight from a puck-out after Damien Hayes opted to pass instead of trying for goal himself and the ball to the unmarked Aonghus Callanan ran harmlessly over the end line.

Crucially, it gave Tipp the momentum at a stage when both sides were struggling to achieve supremacy and, while Galway fought back manfully – inspired by a wonderful goal from Joe Canning – they were always chasing the game.

The standard was set at an early stage when both sides quickly settled.

Tipp promised a goal as early as the sixth minute, when Corbett was at the end of a good move but took the wrong option and allowed wing-back Adrian Cullinane to intercept.

Three points from team captain Eoin Kelly, two of them frees, had them ahead briefly in the 10th minute, but after falling behind to a terrific score from midfielder Richie Murray shortly afterwards, they were not to lead again until a few minutes before the break.

What happened in the interim period was that Galway performed better as a team, inspired by the dynamism of Damien Hayes on the left wing and boosted by the stability which John Lee brought to the defence through his dominance at centre-back.

In fact, as the game developed, the Westerners achieved a definite advantage at half-back which severely curtailed Tipperary and limited the flow of ball inside to Kelly and Corbett.

And that was despite the best efforts of Shane McGrath, who was quick to make an impression at midfield.

At the other end, Joe Canning was making little progress against the close-marking Eamonn Buckley, except that he was still working hard for the team. And while the normally rock-solid Eamonn Corcoran was being exploited by Hayes, Conor O’Mahony was very much in control in the centre, helped by Fergal Healy’s inclination to go searching for the ball.

Overall, however, there was very little between the teams and while Hayes played a big part in giving Galway ascendancy, the strength of the Tipp full-back line (with Paul Curran getting no real test from a disappointing Iarla Tannian), meant that scores were not easily given away.

This applied even more in Tipperary’s case, given that their difficulties at half-forward persisted until James Woodlock started to win ball.

They were back in front in the 33rd minute when Benny Dunne got their opening goal, a reward for a surging run down the left wing but helped by an error from goalkeeper James Skehill in misjudging his low shot.

Not to be outdone, Galway hit back with a Fergal Healy goal created through Canning’s ingenuity and strength in making headway from the edge of the goal-mouth. It left the interval score 1-9 to 1-8 in Tipp’s favour.

With Galway bringing in Alan Kerins (who was to do well at midfield) and introducing Callanan at right corner-forward, scores were level twice, in the 44th and 51st minutes. Callanan quickly justified his introduction, getting an early goal (set up by Hayes) which cancelled out one scored earlier by Willie Ryan.

The opening for this was made by Corbett, who was to exert a strengthening influence over the last quarter, which resulted in the Galway management having to bring Shane Kavanagh back to mark him.

Galway also started to experience problems at half-back after Butler thundered into the game, going on to score five points in 18 minutes.

And while otherwise the defence coped fairly well under pressure, the concession of the goal to Corbett – a real gem, powerfully and skilfully struck – in the 59th minute was a body blow. It was followed quickly by a point from him and two more from Willie Ryan and Butler to open up a seven-point gap with seven minutes of normal time remaining.

But credit Galway with a storming finish and Canning with a marvellous goal which confirmed the significance of his addition to the team.

Shortly afterwards he put over a free to give them hope but the cushion which Tipperary enjoyed on the scoreboard was to sustain them.

And, while Kevin Hynes’ injury -time point created the possibility of an equalising score (after Hayes got into a goal-scoring position but was bottled up), Butler cropped up with his sixth point to ensure victory for Tipp and a 19th title.

Scorers: Tipperary: E Kelly 0-7 (0-5 frees); L Corbett 1-3; S Butler 0-6; W Ryan 1-1; B Dunne 1-0; S McGrath 0-1. Galway: J Canning 1-6 (0-4 frees); F Healy and A Callinan 1-0 each; D Hayes 0-4; K Hynes 0-3; R Murray, J Skehill (free) and G Farragher (free) 0-1 each.

TIPPERARY: B Cummins; E Buckley, P Curran, C O’Brien; E Corcoran, C O’Mahony, S Maher; B Dunne, S McGrath; S Butler, R O’Dwyer, J Woodlock; E Kelly (capt.), L Corbett, W Ryan.

Subs: S Callinan for O’Dwyer (55th minute); J O’Brien for Dunne (59th); A Byrne for Corcoran (injured, 63rd); D Hickey for Ryan.

GALWAY: J Skehill; C Dervan, T Óg Regan, F Moore; S Kavanagh, J Lee, A Cullinane; K Hynes, R Murray; G Farragher, F Healy (capt.), D Hayes; N Healy, I Tannian, J Canning.

Subs: A Kerins for N Healy (30th minute); D Forde for Murray and A Callanan for Farragher (second half); K Wade for Tannian (64th).

Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).

Attendance: 16,315 (last year 22,000).


Absorbing encounter whets the appetite


By Diarmuid O’Flynn

SOMETIMES you have to wonder about this game we have, this sport of hurling. Only April, but, after a truly absorbing NHL final in the Gaelic Grounds yesterday between two well prepared, evenly matched sides, already we’re reaching for the superlatives.

What are we going to do come the summer, and championship?

Every year the bar is raised; just as you think the game has reached its amateur pinnacle, every year one team or another comes forward and raises the ante. This year, we’ve had two such teams. While Kilkenny, Waterford and Cork have been content to sit back and wait a while, Tipperary and Galway set their stall out early and from a long while back it was apparent that both were going all-out this year from the very start. It was that attitude that saw them through to yesterday’s final, and it was that attitude again that gave us a hurling game of the very highest quality.

From the time that flying Galway wing-forward Damien Hayes swept over a superb point from the left sideline after half a minute, to an equally fine insurance point from Tipperary’s Seamus Butler two minutes into injury-time, this game had everything.

Six goals, 34 points, and so many man-of-the-match contenders, on both sides, that for once those who do the official selecting could have just thrown a blind dart at the programme and come up with a worthy winner. Shane Kavanagh or John Lee in the Galway defence? Superb. Kevin Hynes in midfield? Same again. The aforementioned Hayes or Joe Canning up front for the Tribesmen? Either would have been worthy recipients. Then you cross to Tipperary. Paul Curran, Conor O’Mahony, Shane Maher in the defence were outstanding, with Conor O’Brien also coming into the reckoning after a game-saving late hook on goal-bound Hayes and a cool long clearance leading directly to Tipp’s second goal. Shane McGrath in midfield yet again had another superb outing while up front, would it be five-point second-half star Seamus Butler or seven-point first-half hero Eoin Kelly?

Ultimately, however, as Kelly stepped up to receive the trophy to the acclaim of the thousands who had travelled from the Premier county, it was his teammate, full-forward Lar Corbett, who was clutching the gong which had just been presented by TG4.

And what a game Lar had.

Where it was Damien with the first point for Galway, it was Lar responsible for Tipperary’s opener, winning a 20 metre free in the second minute.

Another free won, again pointed by Kelly, helped keep Tipp in touch against a strong first-half wind, and it was his point two minutes into injury-time that saw them marginally in front at the break, 1-9 to 1-8. The second half, though, that’s when Larry really made his mark.

In the 38th minute, he was on the end of the O’Brien clearance and broke it into the path of Willie Ryan, who finished with style. On the hour mark, with Galway having come back to within a point and looking ominous, Lar made his umpteenth soaring catch of the game, this time on the end of a monster Brendan Cummins puckout, turned and left everyone trailing in his wake for …. well a trademark Lar Corbett goal.

That wasn’t his last contribution but it was his most telling. Right and proper then that even on a day when everyone was again talking about Galway’s young superstar Joe Canning, it should be Lar Corbett with the additional trophy for the cabinet.

"It’s a great win for Tipperary," he said, as young and old clamoured to offer their congratulations. "We haven’t won the league since 2001, it was great coming down here today, great for the new lads coming onto the panel that they have something to show for playing with Tipp. It’s still only April and we’re not getting excited yet. But this is a good foundation for the rest of the year."

Many times this year Tipperary have threatened a game like this, many times Lar himself has come close to the breakthrough. Yesterday he and Tipp delivered.

"I think so," he agreed, "I think everyone played their heart out, but the work-rate was fantastic all year and it’s after paying off today. Seamus Butler got some unbelievable points in the second half, and that’s what we needed, someone who could take those kind of scores at times like that.

"There’s a good attitude there from everyone in the panel and the management. But you have to give credit to Galway too; there were some fantastic scores from both sides, some fantastic performances, but lucky enough for us we got the breaks on the day and that’s what makes the difference. Galway have a serious outfit, they’re going to be serious contenders for the championship."

Next challenge on the horizon for Tipperary, after their training break in Portugal over the coming few weeks, is a Munster championship tilt with Cork in Cork, and an attempt to lay a bogey to rest. No championship win Leeside since the 1920’s, can this be the year? "One thing we don’t do in Tipp is jump the gun," he grinned, "and I’m not going to do it here either today! It’s still only April, we still have a lot of work to do to get ready for championship. That was a game played at championship pace out there, without a doubt, the ground has hardened up now, that was a fierce pace, and it goes to show the fitness levels we already have, thanks to Cian O’Neill, our fitness trainer. We put in a big effort for this, but we’re going to have to put in an even better effort again now for the championship."

Wise words, but already, however, the tone has been set. What a year in prospect. Now, where the hell is that thesaurus?


Tipperary lay down a marker


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tipperary 3-18 Galway 3-16: Both sides will have more to play for during the summer but if the preview that was served up at Pairc na nGael this afternoon is any indicator there’s much to look forward to for Tipperary and Galway fans.

After drawing their earlier encounter this year the national hurling league division one final was always going to be a tight affair, but ultimately it was Tipperary who claimed their 19th title, thanks largely to a flurry of scoring on the hour.

The sides were practically inseparable at the break but Tipp held a slender one point advantage at 1-09 to 1-08.

The forward lines of both sides looked capable of scoring at will. Given the talent at both ends it was hardly surprising.

Galway’s teenage star Joe Canning scored 1-06 in total but the telling and timely contribution came from Tipperary’s experienced full forward Lar Corbett.

On the hour, Corbett fielded brilliantly under pressure and smashed the sliotar past James Skehill in the Galway goal.

He pointed twice quickly afterwards and then set-up Willie Ryan for what was effectively a sixth point in the space of three minutes.

Canning hit the net to keep Galway in touch before two Kevin Hynes points and another from the teenager brought the scores back to 3-17 to 3-16. Seamus Butler, however, ensured the win with the two minutes of injury time played.

Speaking afterwards Tipperary captain Eoin Kelly said the win was great preparation for the league.

"I’m delighted," he told RTE radio. "We fought it out to the bitter end with Seamus Butler’s score there.

"It’s only the league but it gives us great confidence going into the championship."

Earlier, Westmeath beat Carlow 2-12 to 0-12 in the division two final.

© 2008

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