Galway’s rout of Tipp adds intrigue to the summer
All-Ireland winners restricted to their lowest score since February 2015
Whatever way you called this league final, you didn’t call it this way. If you imagined one team winning by 16 points, you didn’t reckon on it being Galway. If you predicted three points from play as the day’s work for a full-forward line, it wasn’t Tipperary’s you had in mind. Or if it was, you were mighty quiet about it.
Where to start with a scoreline that reads Galway 3-21 Tipperary 0-14? The cementing of Galway’s claims come the summer seems as good a place as any.
They leapfrogged Waterford in some of the betting books after this, presumably because it’s hard to imagine Waterford – or anyone else – putting this sort of hurt on Tipp. Micheál Donoghue’s side very obviously have the number of the All-Ireland champions and whatever else the championship contains, we have to hope it throws the pair of them together again at some stage.
The provi s o bei ng, of course, that Tipp don’t turn up for any rematch the sort of wan pastiche of themselves that they were here. This was their lowest scoring return in a game since February 2015. Michael Ryan picked a workhorse half-forward line, only to see it outworked and outhorsed by the Galway halfbacks. Pádraic Mannion, Gearóid McInerney and Aidan Harte formed the springboard and the rest of the Galway display bounced accordingly.
Joe Canning was in lordly form, especially in the first half when Galway were struggling a little to turn the water of their dominance into the wine of a decent lead. At a point in the game where they were doing their best to keep Tipperary interested with a string of wides and balls dropped short, Canning was generally unerring. Inside, Jason Flynn and Conor Whelan made traffic cones of the Tipp full-back line.
It all added up to a first league title for Galway since 2010 and the third year in a row that Division 1B has provided the league champions. For Donoghue, it meant a league campaign that could have fizzled out to nothing after the defeat at home to Wexford on February 19th has done the exact opposite.
“We know Galway have been inconsistent,” said Donoghue afterwards. “It’s been lev- elled at us by certain media and to be honest, we’re totally comfortable with that. We know we’re inconsistent. But the only way out of that is to work hard and that’s what we’ve been doing.
“It’s one step at a time. If you go back to the Wexford game, these players got absolutely lacerated in Galway. We knew there were a couple of things we weren’t happy with but we kept working hard.
“The fact that we’ve won it now, my message isn’t going to change. What we wanted from the league was to stay in it as close to the Dublin game as possible. We wanted competitive games and it’s all about Dublin on May 28th now. It’s been a long trek for the lads and they deserve that.”
This was one of those games where the margin was purely at the whim of the winners. Tipp never really had a say. Galway led by 0-11 to 0-5 at half-time and it was only down to their wastefulness that they remained in sight at all. They pucked 11 wides in the first half alone, dropped three balls into Darren Gleeson’s hand and saw two goal chances denied.
At the other end, Tipp were unrecognisable. John McGrath was on the frees in Seamus Callanan’s absence and missed f our bef or e half-time. John O’Dwyer took over for the second half but was substituted nine minutes after the restart. Noel McGrath missed a handful of shots he’d normally pot in his sleep. It was out-of-body stuff.
“No, I can’t explain where it all went wrong,” said Michael Ryan afterwards. That was a complete non-show from us, to be honest. We certainly weren’t prepared for that kind of a game – we weren’t prepared for any kind of a game with that kind of a performance.
“It was the worst performance we’ve had in the length of time I’ve been looking after these boys. It’s very disappointing in a national final, that we’d choose today to come up with one of those.”
If the game was under a reasonably secure lock at half-time, it only took a minute after the break to throw away the key. Mickey Cahill miscontrolled a hopping ball on the Tipp 20-metre line and Flynn was away and gone it before he could recover. His finish was high to Gleeson’s left and just like t hat , Galway had a nine-point lead that was altogether more fitting to the day. Game, set and match with 34 minutes still to play.
By the end, Flynn had another and Cahill had been called to the line. It was surely only numbers that saved Cathal Barrett in the other corner from the same fate. Ditto nearly all but Brendan Maher on the Tipp side.
A curious performance all around.
Out of nowhere came Galway to claim a first Allianz League in seven years, their 10th.
Well, not quite nowhere; they are the third side from Division 1B – home of champions – to win the title and in their case they weren’t even promoted this season.
In Li mer ic k ’ s Gae li c Grounds before 16,089, they started the stronger against the team reckoned by consensus to be a step ahead of everyone.
In fact, Galway flattered them by not taking early chances to disappear out of sight.
Then, in the second half, the goals came: two from Jason Flynn, the first within 50 seconds of the restart. And with Joe Canning in masterful form (0-9, one wide) and Conor Whelan a productive apprentice (five points from play) they buried the favourites without remorse.
The whole coup against the All-Ireland champions was more reminiscent of those championship days years ago when Galway used to sidle in to Croke Park in August not having played a serious match since the spring, and unleash destruction on teams who had emerged from high-profile provincial championships.
Manager Micheál Donoghue, who handles his words in post-match interview environments like a bomb disposal expert, was quick to remind everyone that it was “only April”.
However, this display and re- sult – the biggest winning margin in a league final since Galway lost to the same opposition 38 years ago – has transformed the championship from a perceived procession to a far more enticing mad scramble.
At a loss
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan was at a loss to explain how his team, which incinerated Wexford in 10 minutes the previous week – the same Wexford that had beaten Galway to deny them promotion earlier in the campaign – had fallen so flat.
It was he said, the “flattest” display the team had given during his two seasons to date in charge.
The undeniable strengths of Tipperary were only vaguely discernible. Their half backs, the core of the team, were hustled and pressurised by Canning, Flynn and Joseph Cooney. The Maher brothers won their share of ball but the defence in general was prone to coughing up possession and the relentlessness of Galway’s harrying forced errors.
David Burke has been the most influential centrefielder in big matches between the counties in recent years. That trend wasn’t disturbed as he went about his business as usual, well supported by Johnny Coen, and Brendan Maher struggled to stay in their slipstream.
At one stage in the second quarter, Galway won six Tipperary puck-outs in succession.
Although Ryan said that the proposed disciplinary issue hanging over Jason Forde hadn’t been an issue for the team, he conceded that it might have had an impact on the player, who was so subdued he could ask the CHC to take the match into account if they do hand down a suspension.
But it was up front that things went most awry for Tipperary.
John McGrath, menacing over the past year, was so reduced by Galway’s high-energy hounding of the striker out the field and the claustrophobic attentions of Galway’s full backs – led by an excellent Daithi Burke – that he relied on a deflected shot in the final minute of injury time to register his first point from play.
Their half backs – Aidan Harte, especially lively in getting up for two points during the match – bullied the Tipp half forwards into mistakes and ineffectiveness and Steven O’Brien, a moderately encouraging league behind him, was airlifted out before half-time.
It was uncharact er i s t i c dead-ball lapses by McGrath that got Tipp off to an anxious start. Had the points gone over they might have exerted a bit more pressure on opponents who took time to find their own range. Once they did, though, they took command.
Galway were simply too competitive. They didn’t allow wides to disrupt them, kept creating chances and, in the second quarter, began to take them. Whelan sniped for a point, Flynn tore through and brought a fine save from Darren Gleeson at the cost of a converted 65 by Canning, and when Tipp punctuated the gathering storm with a score of their own, their opponents replied: Canning shooting three in reply to Brendan Maher’s 24th-minute point.
At half-time it was 0-11 to 0-5 and as soon as the second half started, the contest finished. Flynn raced in on goal in the opening moments of the second half to crack the ball past Gleeson.
There was still no let-up from Galway. Tipperary eked out a score here and there but it was like hoping a bathroom leak would put out a fire.
Flynn all but waltzed in for another goal in the 57th minute, out-running Michael Cahill on the left sideline and side-stepping James Barry and in the 67th.
Cathal Mannion, who had struggled with his shooting, flew through the centre and whipped in a fine goal on the run.
Patrick Maher got a run on his return from army duty abroad but this mission was irretrievable by the time he arrived.
Galway captain David Burke with President Michael D Higgins at the trophy presentation in Limerick yesterday.
Galway’s Jason Flynn scores the first goal of the Allianz League final against Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds.