1. Hurling is back in the good books
THE WEEK THAT saved hurling.
After all the moaning about sweepers and defensive tactics, everything has been forgotten after three remarkable All-Ireland semi-finals. Just three points in total seperated the teams in the last four games that wrapped up today’s epic contest served up by Galway and Tipperary.
Turns out hurling isn’t on such a bad footing after all. After an incredible seven days for the small ball code, we have another final between hurling’s two powerhouses to look forward to. These games are almost guaranteed to be tasty affairs.
Tipperary looked in trouble at various stages today but they thought their way out of it, scoring two vital second-half goals at a key juncture in the second-half. Galway never recovered from that.
The Tribe’s quest for a first All-Ireland hurling title since 1988 continues into 2017. This will be hard one to take.
2. Canning departure they key turning point
Galway’s character cannot be questioned after that display. Sure, their season ended but they must be commended for the fight they showed, especially after losing Adrian Tuohy and talisman Joe Canning to injury at half-time.
Galway edged the physical stakes and led by 1-10 to 0-11 at half-time. Canning’s departure at the interval was the turning point of the game and no matter how much they’ll argue otherwise, Tipperary were buoyed by his absence.
As the first-half ticked down, Canning took a nudge in the back from James Barry as they chased down a ball in the corner. The Portumna forward rose from the turf clutching his left hamstring. He hobbled off to the dressing room on 35 minutes and took his place on the bench after half-time.
Tuohy joined him on the line after dislocating his elbow in the exchanges before the break. It’s hard not to have sympathy for Galway, who were leading until they conceded goals in 61st and 63rd minutes.
Tipperary’s half-back line surged into the game in the second period. Would Canning have helped stem some of that tide around the middle third? It’s entirely reasonable to assume he would have.
Conor Cooney stepped up in Canning’s absence, but not enough of their forwards were thriving around him.
Another season ends in disappointment for Galway. From Division 1B they’ve an opportunity to build momentum next year without the threat of relegation. Michael Donoghue has a good young team to work with. They’ll be back.
3. Impact of John O’Dwyer and John McGrath
‘Great players come up with great scores when you need them most,’ Michael Ryan said about John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer after the game.
He could have said the same about the mercurial forward John McGrath who bagged one goal and set-up another. It was a risky call for Micheal Ryan to leave John O’Dwyer on the bench, but ultimately they weren’t punished. Ryan can ill-afford to start without ‘Bubbles’ the next day out.
His goal was expertly dispatched from a tight angle, keeping it low to beat Colm Callanan from close-range.
Tipperary always appeared to have the greater goal threat, with those long-range deliveries causing problems for Galway’s full-back line.
Switching Callanan to corner-forward was a smart move by the Tipp boss. It took Callanan’s man-marker Daithi Burke out of the edge of the square. John McGrath was rained with ball and it reaped dividends.
McGrath probably nailed his first Allstar with that performance. His brother Noel wasn’t bad either, hitting three big scores for the Premier.
4. We’re heading for a mouth-watering All-Ireland final
Kilkenny and Tipperary. Two teams that always seem to bring out the best in one another will meet again in the All-Ireland final. It’s a fifth final between these counties since 2009. The victory in 2010, when they denied Kilkenny a five-in-a-row, remains Tipperary’s sole September win over the Cats since 1991.
There’s a steel about this Tipperary side and in many ways is the perfect way to win a semi-final. It was by no means the complete performance and leaves Ryan with plenty to work on.
Tipp’s half-back line took a long time to get into the game, but ultimately they provided the platform for the win in the second-half. Callanan still isn’t firing on all cylinders yet and Tipp hit 14 wides, which is poor considering the caliber of their forwards.
Tipp will fancy their chances. Kilkenny are not the great side of old but they are the champions for a reason and remain a very difficult team to beat.
Michael Fennelly’s ankle injury has robbed us of a potential midfield showdown between him and his young Tipperary prototype Michael Breen. Kilkenny will be favourites, but that’ll suit the Munster men. It promises to be a cracking final.
5. Another year, another missed opportunity for Joe Canning
Joe Canning ticks a year closer to his 30th birthday without touching the holy grail. He turns 28 in October with another few years still left in his prime. But he must be getting frustrated at this stage.
Next year will be Canning’s tenth inter-county campaign with just a Leinster title, a National League medal and three Allstars show for his efforts. Michael Jordan had to wait until he was 28 before he picked up his first NBA championship ring with the Chicago Bulls. He went on to dominate the league, winning six more national titles before his retirement.
The presence of Kilkenny in the hurling championship means six All-Irelands medals is probably out of reach for Canning. But just one would be vital for his legacy and how his career is remembered in years to come.
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