Galway march on to National Hurling League knock-out stages after second-half comeback
GALWAY staged a second-half comeback at Pearse Stadium yesterday to secure a National League quarter-final place and leave Tipperary with time on their hands.
Conor Whelan was the hero for the westerners, grabbing two second-half goals, while Cathal Mannion also hit the back of the net in the closing stages as Shane O'Neill's men set up a quarter-final meeting with Wexford. The defeat means Tipperary – who led by 3-7 to 0-9 lead at the break – have a nine-week hiatus before their next competitive fixture, against Waterford in the first round of the Munster Championship.
The All-Ireland champions got off to the best possible start when John McGrath hit a major in the third minute following a long ball in from Alan Flynn. Galway reduced the deficit to the minimum thanks to Evan Niland’s accuracy from dead balls before McGrath raised his second green flag in the 21st minute.
The Connacht men narrowed the gap to two points, 0-8 to 2-4, before Tipp reeled off an unanswered 1-3 before half-time, with Jason Forde grabbing a goal in the 35th minute after clever play by Séamus Callanan and Cian Darcy.
Whelan's switch from half-forward to full-forward paid off in the second-half as Galway came roaring back. The Kinvara man's first goal in the 42nd minute was added to by some excellent points from Brian Concannon.
The margin was down to the minimum, 1-14 to 3-9, by the 49th minute before Tipp appeared to weather the storm with three of the next four points. But the momentum remained with the Tribes men, who then reeled off 2-4 without reply, with Whelan's 57th minute goal giving them a lead from which they never looked back.
Also in Group A, on Saturday night holders Limerick secured their semi-final spot when making it five wins from as many outings. Waterford will compete at the quarter-final stage despite the defeat at the Gaelic Grounds.
Gearóid Hegarty was instrumental in the Limerick victory, hitting 1-5 over the course of the game, including a first-half goal. Jamie Barron was the only Waterford player to register a score from play in the opening period.
The impressive Iarlaith Daly pulled a point back for the visitors after half-time, but Limerick showed no signs of letting up and were eight points clear before Fagan threw Liam Cahill’s men a lifeline with a fantastic individual goal in the 54th minute.
Goalkeeper O’Brien pulled off a great save to deny Gillane a goal at the expense of a point shortly after before Barron, Stephen Bennett and Mahony tagged on late consolation scores for the Déise.
In the top table’s relegation play-off, Killian Doyle hit 1-14 for Westmeath as they retained their Division One status at the expense of Carlow at Cusack Park.
Doyle, who was a late replacement for his Raharney clubmate Joey Boyle, accounted for all but one point of the Lake county's first-half tally as they took a 1-8 to 0-4 lead into the break. The hosts extended their advantage after the restart before Carlow grabbed a brace of goals in the closing 10 minutes to reduce the gap to four points, but they couldn't get any closer and drop back to Division 2A for 2021.
London retained their Division 2B status with a 1-20 to 0-5 victory over Warwickshire in their relegation play-off at Ruislip. Cian Lordan scored the only goal in a comfortable win for the home side.
Meanwhile, Sligo warmed up for their Division 3B final against Leitrim with a 3-21 to 0-14 win over Fermanagh at Bawnacre in Irvinestown.