WHAT. A. GAME.
Honestly, what a game of hurling.
It had everything that makes our game so great.
It had fantastic goals, a guy scoring his first ever championship point when hitting the winner and the blood and thunder intensity that would have you running through walls afterwards.
You’d have to feel for Tipperary because, if you’d told Eamon O’Shea beforehand his team would outscore Galway by three goals to none, he’d have thought his side would be preparing for an All-Ireland final in a few weeks.
Not just that, there was the timing of the goals too. They were almost perfect from a Tipp point of view. One from their very first attack, one just after half-time and one entering the final quarter.
You’d have to wonder why the Galway management didn’t act sooner to take Padraig Mannion off of Seamus Callanan. You could forgive the defender for the first goal, he got a bit hyped up and went for the Hollywood move on Callanan when he’d have been better off just batting the ball away.
That’s to take nothing away from Callanan, his movement was fantastic on all three goals and the movement out the field by Tipperary to set them up was textbook.
But after the second went in, I just felt Anthony Cunningham and his team should have been giving Mannion some support. In fairness, Iarla Tannion did eventually drop back and help out but Callanan had done the damage at that stage.
But he couldn’t do it all himself and Tipp’s problems were obvious when you realise they’d only three other scorers in the first half, compared to Galway whose scores were coming from an array of players.
While Tipperary were spearheaded by a phenomenal individual performance, Galway’s was as good an all-round team one as we’ve seen in this year’s championship and they’ve almost certainly come on from the team that lost the 2012 All-Ireland final replay.
Colm Callanan was brilliant — as was Darren Gleeson in the Tipp goal — making some crucial saves. Those four stops in a row he made in the 44th minute, the sequence that started with Bonnar Maher, as well as the reaction save against Lar Corbett when it looked a certain goal, were match-winning saves.
Down the other end, Galway’s 26 points shows they made the most of the opportunities they created and the likes of Daithi Burke, Jason Flynn, Jonathan Glynn and Cathal Mannion all put in great shifts.
I’ve watched every game Mannion’s played this year and he’s been a remarkable addition to that squad. I think he’ll get an Allstar even if he doesn’t pick up a Celtic Cross in September.
Then of course, there’s Joe Canning. Only two points from play today (of 0-10) but as vital to the Galway cause as ever.
The Tribesmen brought everything today. The intensity and full-blooded tackling was there throughout the 70 minutes which was a big improvement on the Leinster final where they played like that for 40 minutes before it faded away.
Honestly, just watching the amount of hooking and blocking going on around the field would have you exhausted.
But for as well as they played, Anthony Cunningham will know there are improvements to be made. They had goal chances today and they didn’t take a single one of them.
The one that really stands out for me was when Canning was through and he could have popped it off to Andrew Smith for an almost certain goal but he decided to shoot himself.
Most pundits, myself included, probably thought we were going to have a Tipperary Kilkenny final, particularly with the way Galway played in the Leinster final but they’ve a right chance now.
Cunningham will have to ground them and remind them they’ve already had one cut off Kilkenny this year and came out second best. He needs to show them the tape of today, what they brought to the game and tell them they need to go again, put in two performances in a row.
On the other side, you’ve Kilkenny who’ve coasted into an All-Ireland final without having to put in a shift like Galway did today. I don’t know who has the advantage in that situation.
I do know that I always found the All-Ireland semi-final the most dangerous game of the championship. It’s not being cocky but you’d always expect the final to take care of itself when you get there as form tends to matter for little on the first weekend in September.
And despite the fact I think Galway will go into that game full of confidence, on the high of this brilliant performance, they don’t hand out All-Ireland winners’ medals on the third weekend in August and Kilkenny have a fair habit of saving their best for when the silverware does become available.
One final thought on Noel McGrath today. How great was it to see him coming on in an All-Ireland semi-final just months after being diagnosed with testicular cancer?
It looked at one stage like he might be the hero for Tipp too when he put them ahead late on but, alas, it wasn’t to be.
He’s still a super player and has gone through his own battles and it was brilliant to see all the Galway players go up to him after the game and I’m certain we’ll see much more of him on days like today in the future.