Joe Canning injury-time point gives Galway thrilling win over Tipperary
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final: Galway 0-22 Tipperary 1-18
LIKE a golfer stuck to the base of a tree in the rough, there was no room for manoeuvre. Bodies in front, his own tight to the line, Joe Canning dropped the sliotar flat and swung on instinct.
These 74 minutes had been no different from the time before, or the time before that. Breathless. Exhilarating. Exhausting. Not perfect, not always imbued with the quality to match the passion, but always gripping.
Yet somehow, these two always get separated in the end.
This time the wedge was 6’2”, 14st 11lbs of pure Portumna steel. Joe Canning hasn’t always had the best of times against Tipp and for a lot of the first half yesterday it was the same.
But when he was really, really needed, the Galway talisman took it by the throat. He’d come from nowhere a matter of seconds after dropping a 100-yard free short but when Johnny Coen turned to see a team-mate, there was no-one he’d rather have seen.
The very last second of the four minutes of stoppage time gone, he whipped the ball brilliantly. It must have turned on itself a thousand times before it dropped sweetly above Darren Glesson’s crossbar and on to the Hill 16 ballcatcher.
Had you heard the roar that followed its course, you’d never forget.
It was the most fitting of finishes to a second half that deserved it, yet the first hadn’t always. Their familiarity made them wary of each other.
"You’d be hoping that it didn’t turn into a shootout again like it did the last two years,” admitted Galway boss Michéal Donoghue.
"When it turns into that, it’s cat and mouse, up and down the field and you don’t know what’s going to happen. The two teams draw the best out of each other.
"We said at half-time that we were happy enough, we were within touching distance and we pushed the boys to improve on a few areas. We pushed them on work-rate, desire and attitude."
That seemed to play into Tipp’s hands and by the end of a half that ended with the reigning champions a point up, the signs were good for them.
Weeks of criticism of their full-back line was offset by a return to the old faithful of James Barry at full-back, Mickey Cahill in the corner and Darren Gleeson behind them. And it shored them right up.
Instead it was the Galway defence that looked uncertain in the first 35 minutes. The game’s only goal came when Colm Callanan was hesitant, Adrian Tuohy was robbed and John McGrath was ruthless from the ground.
That made it 1-6 to 0-8 after 23 minutes and Galway’s touch was just that bit off in areas.
Joe Canning hardly touched leather in open play and was off on the frees until nailing a brilliant sideline cut just before the break.
Despite Daithí Burke again shading his duel with Seamus Callanan, there was still a threat. John McGrath was dangerous and Noel McGrath was dropping nicely off Gearoid McInerney to create space for both himself and others around him.
Really had it not been for Conor Whelan in attack then the first half might have been a complete write-off for Galway. The Kinvara man foraged and darted and got three from play to keep it alive.
They looked a different team in a very different second half. After conceding three of the second half’s first four scores, Tipperary realised it very quickly and matched every turn, twist and hit until the bitter end.
The hits were plenty. Gearoid McInerney tumbled Pádraic Maher in the first half the way he had turfed Joe Canning over the line last year. McInerney had already had his too, thrown asunder by Noel McGrath early on. Michael Breen’s last action was to get smashed into the Hogan Stand by Canning.
Where the first half had been relatively lacking in quality and goal chances, the second was anything but. There could have been four goals at either end, but ne’er was another green flag to come.
John McGrath, normally so lethal, twice let down by indecision as they made a hero of Adrian Tuohy, whose reading of the game and timely interceptions masked something of a struggle in his individual battle.
There was the big chance before half-time too for Seamus Callanan who slipped in behind Burke when he lost his footing, but the Galway ‘keeper spread himself to make a great save with his chest.
The Leinster champions had just drawn level at 0-17 to 1-14 when the ball fell in behind for Noel McGrath but pulling off balance, he didn’t catch the shot and allowed Colm Callanan to make a relatively comfortable near post save.
That his namesake Seamus drilled the resulting 65’ wide seemed of as much consequence in a game where the margins had already been worn down to the paper thin variety.
Gearoid McInerney was colossal at the heart of the defence and when the sides were level and one final ball rained down on the Galway square in stoppage time, Daithí Burke plucked it from the heavens. It was a measure of the turnaround in their defence, which was superb in the second period.
That led to a free that Joe Canning came out for a shot-to-nothing with, from inside his own 45. It never had the distance but squeezed through bodies and made Darren Gleeson plunge to save.
By the time Tipperary had rushed the clearance and Johnny Coen turned to look for support, Canning was back up on his shoulder, 45 yards out on the sideline beneath the Cusack. He nailed it.
John O’Dwyer couldn’t muster the same madness when he tried from the other wing, swivelling to miss the far post as Galway saw it wide and danced in anticipation.
One might construe the lack of celebrations on the final whistle as a sign of a “just another step” mentality but it looked more like it was steeped in sheer mutual respect.
Tipperary looked all summer like they were doing their best to live up to their stereotypical method of failing to retain an All-Ireland but in the end, it took every ounce Galway had to shake them off.
Despite Tipp and Kilkenny being out the way, Michéal Donoghue will be all too aware of the lack of guarantees.
But for the seventh time since 1988, Galway will be there on September 3 with Cork or Waterford.
Galway: C Callanan; A Tuohy, Daithí Burke, J Hanbury; P Mannion (0-1f), G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen (0-2), David Burke; C Mannion (0-1), J Canning (0-11, 0-6f, 0-1 65’, 0-1 line ball), J Cooney (0-1); C Whelan (0-4), N Burke (0-1), C Cooney (0-2)
Subs: J Flynn for Burke (44), J Glynn for C Mannion (52), S Moloney for C Cooney (69)
Blood replacement: G Lally for G McInerney (69-70)
Yellow card: J Canning (29)
Tipperary: D Gleeson; D Maher, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy, R Maher, Pádraic Maher; B Maher, M Breen; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, N McGrath; J O’Dwyer, S Callanan, J McGrath
Subs: J Forde (0-1) for Breen (34), N O’Meara for Forde (61)
Blood replacement: S Curran for McCormack (6-9)
Yellow card: D Gleeson (50)
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)