A twenty-minute blitzkrieg sent tremors through Semple Stadium on Saturday last. Tipperary’s explosive final quarter floored Galway and sent the home fans into orbit.
The prize for the win came with Monday morning’s qualifier draw. A date with Offaly sends us to Portlaoise on Saturday next for a double bill we share with the footballers who face the locals after their demolition of Longford.
To understand the emotional outburst that greeted Tipperary’s late heroics on Saturday you have to appreciate where the team was coming from. It’s been a pretty torrid month for Tipperary hurling following that defeat to Limerick in the provincial championship and all the subsequent angst. There was something of a crisis of faith as the team was hammered (no pun intended) in private and public discourse. Another early season exit would have opened something of an appalling vista for management and players alike.
To have extricated ourselves then from that potential disaster represents a massive relief all round.
It’s a while since the Tipp fans have been able to enjoy a spell like that final twenty minutes of this game. At six down we seemed to be in trouble following Jonathan Glynn’s double-whammy past Gleeson after out-fielding Paudie Maher on both occasions. We shuffled uneasily until the tide turned – but when it turned it was a veritable tsunami.
There might have been no turn but for the switching of James Barry to full back and the redeployment of Paudie Maher to the ‘forty’. That move steadied matters with Barry neutralising Glynn and Maher opening his shoulders in his happier role on the half line.
A point by ‘Bubbles’ started the comeback but it was Callanan’s goal that really gave it legs. The Drom man had his original effort blocked but did the business on the follow-up. The chase was now on, the dander up, and this time there was to be no choking. A Callanan free and then a McGrath point continued the surge.
Back at level terms with fifteen minutes to play it was still very much ‘game on’. This time, however, there was no stopping Tipperary’s drive for the line. It was as if all the anger of the past month was unleashed in one adrenaline surge that simply swept Galway aside. Corbett’s pair of points endorsed the mood, the second a classic score from the sideline with minimal space available.
Onwards Tipp kept driving at a visibly rattled Galway, another Callanan free and then two from Bergin and Noel McGrath pushed the lead out to the comfort zone, a solitary Canning response the only reaction from Galway.
Callanan’s third goal was the coup de grace. The finish may have been routine against an exposed goalie but watch the build up to that goal where persistence and doggedness by the Tipp forwards refused to allow Galway out of defence. ‘Bubbles’ and Shane McGrath rounded it all off as Galway were denied a consolation score. Outscoring Galway by 2-10 to 0-1 in those twenty minutes was incredible.
Nothing that went before prepared us for this late onslaught. The first half had been tight though future events had been signposted. Jonathan Glynn out-fielded Paddy Stapleton as early as the third minute to set up Jason Flynn for an early Galway goal. Callanan’s reply ten minutes later was a counter omen. The second Galway goal was tipped in off a long Tannian free but in general play the home team was doing well. Thankfully those Glynn goals came early in the second half because it gave us space to counter-punch – and what a whiplash there was!
There was no denying the euphoria of the occasion for Tipperary given the backdrop and I’m especially pleased for players and management who gave the only answer that matters to the more caustic criticisms that they’ve endured in past weeks. Disappointing to see ex-players wading in with this guff about hurlers being cowardly; it’s populist stuff but doesn’t stand up to much analysis.
Inevitably when you put the display under the microscope there are negatives and positives that can be easily identified. That blistering finish was probably the most pleasing aspect where they closed out the match with real passion, something that had been missing in earlier performances.
Individually Seamus Callanan took top honours with a display that had real edge to it this time taking the punishment and going where it hurts. He had the lead part in an attack which clocked up a score total that would win most championship games comfortably. ‘Bubbles’ too was a top contributor with Corbett providing the inspirational touches and ‘Bonner’ the usual donkey work. Noel McGrath played his part also, one second half point a real booming effort from deep inside his own half. Only Gearoid Ryan of the starting six will be disappointed with his input.
At midfield events passed Ronan Maher by in the first half but for him it’s very much a learning curve as he serves an apprenticeship that I’ve no doubt will eventually see him become a permanent fixture. Woodlock’s return was timely; it’s still painful to speculate on what his presence in the Limerick game might have meant.
In defence the talking point was obviously Paudie Maher at full back and those Jonathan Glynn goals. It’s clearly our main problem area now where an alternative is urgently needed. By instinct Paudie is not a full back and indeed you could also argue that his half back contribution is too valuable to be sacrificed. Paul Curran’s name obviously features in this discussion and the Offaly game should now give the management some scope for trying options.
Speaking of the management they deserve credit this time for the moves that worked just as they deserved criticism for those that didn’t against Limerick. Drafting James Barry to full back was a match winner and Kieran Bergin’s introduction was hugely profitable too. One cameo where Bergin chased back and blocked down Joe Canning epitomised a man on a mission after the disappointment of the Limerick game. I expect he’ll be in for the throw-in against Offaly.
One substitution that surprised people was the introduction of John O’Brien ahead of Denis Maher. Hopefully Conor O’Mahony will be fit again for the remainder of the campaign because we need as many options available as possible.
So, Saturday will be another busy day with hurlers and footballers sharing the programme at Portlaoise. There’s no doubt we got a break on this draw because Offaly on present form are seen as struggling. They were whitewashed by Kilkenny in their opening game in Leinster and then needed a very questionable refereeing decision to get over Antrim in the first round of the qualifiers. Tipp will be hotly fancied but caution is surely the by-word.
This game will be a repeat of a 2010 fixture at the same venue – a healthy omen hopefully. On that occasion we got through comfortably enough, Eoin Kelly put his name to eleven points and Shane Dooley got a late consolation goal. It finished 0-21 to 1-12. Something similar would be welcome. The footballers, after that huge win over Longford, have a tough one against a Laois side that did respectably against Dublin earlier.
Elsewhere we’ll keep an eye on that Munster final in a crumbling Pairc Ui Chaoimh. The concrete may be cracking but I expect the Cork hurlers to hold firm and avenge last year.