Callanan throws the shackles off to ease Tipp’s pain
Tipperary 3-25 Galway 4-13 – All-Ireland SHC qualifiers round one
This had the feel of a boil being lanced for an entire community, great waves of relief rolling through every strut and beam of Semple Stadium.
The place was being frisked by all manner of agitation when, with one loud, contralto shriek, Tipperary were in a clearing and running free. Where did it come from? Their first championship win in, as one local melodramatically reminded us, 17,220 hours keyed the big stadium with emotions not often registered on qualifier nights.
The curious thing is, depending on today’s draw, Tipp could still be gone from the championship by this weekend. But beating Galway answered a fundamental prayer. It was as if a team had reclaimed its people
If ever a single score dismantled anyone, Séamus Callanan’s second goal did for Galway. It arrived in the 53rd minute, Tipp faces all around us bleached of colour. Two Johnny Glynn goals in six minutes had left Éamon O’Shea’s boys chasing a five point deficit and grabbing for the tiniest air-pockets of hope.
Yet Glynn’s second, perversely, had proved the tripwire for change.
It arrived in the 45th minute, the ease with which he plucked another high delivery from over Pádraic Maher’s head throwing Tipp’s management into an instant crisis summit. Maher has never looked an enthusiastic full-back since Aisake Ó hAilpín did that impression of Gulliver in Páirc Uí Chaoimh four years ago, but circumstance had again forced Tipp’s hand.
They won an All-Ireland in 2010 after the penny dropped that, for all his charisma and athleticism, Maher isn’t spring-heeled under aerial fire. Maybe no position on the field requires more calculated thinking, and Maher’s hunger to hurl, thus, makes him a gamble at number three.
So the moment O’Shea swapped him with James Barry at centre-back was the moment this game changed.
Suddenly, Maher’s liberation sent a frisson through the rest of the Tipp defence and they began to hurl with an easy aggression that had, hitherto, been absent. Better still, Barry had the intelligence not to engage in a catching duel with Glynn, settling – instead – for furtive flicks and nudges that prevented ball going to hand.
On any ordinary night, this might have brought Tipp back into contention. On Saturday, it propelled them into outer space. Remarkably, they won the closing 20 minutes on a tally of 2-10 to 0-1, Galway’s only remaining score a gorgeously desultory 61st minute Joe Canning point.
Joe’s story was a microcosm of Galway’s. In the first half, he’d been moving through the place like a comet but, even before Maher arrived into his precinct, the flames were giving way to smoke.
By the end, Mardi Gras had come to Thurles. Lar Corbett, peripheral for much of the evening, floated over two museum-piece scores to great, redemptive roars. And O’Shea and his selectors, finally, felt the luxury of warm words on their necks. Had he still believed when Tipp slipped six behind with 20 minutes remaining?
“Absolutely,” he stressed instantly. “I just thought, in our hurling, that we hadn’t lost the will to survive. And when you haven’t lost the will to survive, with the hurling we have, then things can happen.”
They can, but they don’t always.
His big-game stewardship of Tipp had, previously, been a succession of highwire acts cursed by last-second tumbles. So, when the sides were level at half-way, a suspicion lurked that they might be headed for a test of nerve again. Galway’s size was troubling the full-back line under high deliveries, goals from Jason Flynn and David Burke having already set alarm bells ringing. And, with Canning getting the better of Barry on the ’40’, Galway looked more convincing.
But Tipp were getting scores from the free-running John O’Dwyer and Noel McGrath and Callanan had sniped a 13th minute goal from a Gearóid Ryan delivery. Mindy you, Galway’s management were incensed by what they considered a Corbett push on Fergal Moore in the build-up. The game, then, was a stalemate of sorts until those two Glynn goals. Like a sudden burst of thunder, they cleared the muggy air.
For Anthony Cunningham, the sudden and inscrutable surrender of his team was difficult to behold. Perhaps three games in a fortnight took a cruel toll on legs yet, from the vale of regret, he mined a defiant promise to stick with them for another year.
“We can’t say a thing about the performance, we threw everything at this game,” he said. “It was a tremendous battle. To come to Thurles any time is difficult, but we’ve had to play those three games in two weeks, probably the toughest draw of any we could get.
“Even compared to last year we’re much happier with our performances. We had a good year, very solid league.
“To finish this evening is disappointing really, very disappointing for the lads because they’ve thrown everything at this. They’ve trained 24/7. You’ll probably hear all the experts now of what went wrong, what was right. But I know and my back-room team knows and all the players know, they’ll live to fight another day. That’s for sure.”
Avoiding the stigma of a fifth consecutive championship defeat might set Tipp free now.
Callanan’s second goal in the 53rd minute, coolly despatched to the corner after his initial effort was saved, opened the floodgates. By the time he intercepted a 70th-minute pass to score his third, Tipp were long since out of danger.
Corbett’s presence unquestionably lubricates an attack still highly dependent upon Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher to do the heavy lifting. Noel McGrath’s floating role took him deeper than his own half-back line on occasion, yet he played beautifully and one point from his own ’65’ was breathtaking. On another day, ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer’s 0-6 from play would have had him in man of the match territory.
Yet, Tipp have a decision now to make at No three, a decision that could define their . “We’re at a very early stage,” acknowledged O’Shea.
“I wouldn’t be building monuments to the team or anything like it. We’re doing our best. We fail at times. We are human, but it’s just nice the public can see the players in a different light. Because these are really good men.”
Scorers: Tipperary: S Callanan 3-8 (7fs), J O’Dwyer 0-6, N McGrath 0-5, L Corbett 0-2, J Woodlock, Patrick Maher, K Bergin, S McGrath 0-1 each. Galway: J Glynn 2-0, J Canning 0-5 (0-1 sideline cut), C Cooney 0-4 (4 fs), D Burke, J Flynn 1-0 each, C Mannion 0-2, P Brehony, D Glennon 0-1 each.
Tipperary: D Gleeson 7; P Stapleton 7, Pádraic Maher 7, M Cahill 7; B Maher 6, J Barry 7, C Barrett 8; R Maher 6, J Woodlock 7; G Ryan 7, Patrick Maher 8, N McGrath 8; J O’Dwyer 8, S Callanan 9, L Corbett 7. Subs: K Bergin 8 for R Maher (h-t), S McGrath for Ryan (68), J O’Brien for Corbett (71).
Galway: C Callanan 7; F Moore 7, R Burke 6, D Collins 7; I Tannian 7, Daithí Burke 7, J Coen 7; A Smith 6, P Brehony 6; David Burke 6, J Canning 8, C Mannion 7; J Flynn 6, C Cooney 6, J Glynn 7. Subs: D Glennon 6 for David Burke (half-time), J Cooney 6 for Brehony (h-t), A Harte 6 for Smith (45), N Burke for Tannian (59), D Hayes for Mannion (68).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).
Game at a glance: Tipperary v Galway
Man of the match
Seamus Callanan (Tipperary) – After what has felt like an eternity, the Drom and Inch man exploded with a massive personal haul of 3-8. Could this be lift-off for one of the most elegant hurlers in the game?
Callanan’s second goal. It arrived in the 53rd minute, Tipp trailing by five points. Eamon O’Shea’s men won the remainder by 1-9 to 0-1 so you could scarcely overstate the significance of that score.
Did the third game in as many weeks take a cruel toll on Galway? They hurled magnificently for just over 50 minutes but their meltdown was so stark it had to be down to more than Tipp’s brilliance.
With seven minutes of normal time remaining, Lar Corbett floated over a sublime point from the left touchline, with a slow golfer’s swing and follow-through.
Colm Lyons did seem to miss a push on Fergal Moore for Tipp’s first goal but, overall, did a good job, helped by the honesty of the two teams.
What they said
Eamon O’Shea (Tipperary manager): “I’m absolutely thrilled for the players. Contrary to what people think, they’re actually the easiest bunch to manage. They work really hard, but they make mistakes like everybody does. They’re actually a thrill to be around.”
Anthony Cunningham (Galway manager): “It is cruel. You wouldn’t have seen that finish with 20 minutes to go, five points up. We got a tremendous performance out of our guys but I think we tired badly in the last 15 minutes.”
Tipperary 13 (6 in first-half); Galway 9 (7).
Tipperary 11 (6); Galway 8 (4).
Tipperary 1 (G Ryan 47); Galway 5 (D Collins 4, R Burke 18, J Coen 35, F Moore 65, J Cooney 69).
Tipperary 0; Galway 0.
Tipperary go into this morning’s draw for the next round of the qualifiers. Galway’s season is over.