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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 9 December, 2019

Analysis: Galway's magnificent defensive wall, costly Tipp errors, Canning's wonder winner

Galway were deserving winners of yesterday’s All-Ireland semi-final.

WHAT A PULSATING game! It was just an absorbing tie from start to finish, in the balance all the way through, right to the very last puck of the ball.

You had two heavyweights slugging it out, putting everything on the line. You have to tip your hat to both sets of players for the intensity of the contest.

It was gripping. The out-and-out quality of the match wasn’t as high as other games between the teams but the physicality, excitement and level of commitment to it from both teams was just incredible.

Gearoid McInerney celebrates Gearóid McInerney's display summed up Galway's defensive effort. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Having said all that, while the match could easily have finished in a draw, I think Tipp would have been happier to get it than Galway.

The Tribesmen were in charge of the game and played the better and more consistent hurling throughout.

I didn’t think Tipp were really in control of the game and to a certain extent, they were chasing the game a bit more than Galway.

The winners had the more balanced overall performances, whereas some of Tipp’s key influencers weren’t as influential. Galway had enormous performances from Daithí Burke, Gearóid McInerney, Pádraic Mannion, Aidan Harte, Joe Canning and Conor Whelan in particular.

David Burke celebrates David Burke had a better game than he's been given credit for. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

And contrary to public opinion, David Burke was influential in the match as well.

There was a fair bit of concern surrounding Tipp’s full-back line before the game but in fairness to Donagh Maher, James Barry and Michael Cahill, they had decent games.

Barry and Cahill in particular were hurling really well as the game went on and while Conor Whelan was coming with a lot of pressure, Tipp’s inside men coped reasonably well.

At the other end of the pitch, Galway’s defensive effort was the real key to victory.

I’ll go into that in a bit more detail now.

Galway’s defensive wall

The Galway backs were up this one – and had much the better of the contests with the Tipperary forwards.

There were numerous examples of Galway in charge of the 50-50 contests, particularly from long, direct balls out of the Tipp defence that came at them early and fast.

Galway were just really tight on their men, and very few Tipp players got to a ball unchallenged.

More often than not, Galway were picking up breaking balls off the initial contests, if they hadn’t won them clean in the first place.

13 mins 56 seconds: Darren Gleeson’s long puck-out is collected here by John Hanbury, who plays a handpass to Niall Burke:

Burke lines himself up to play a quick, diagonal ball in the direction of Cathal Mannion:

Mannion gets out in front of Donagh Maher, spins and prepares to send the ball over the bar:

16:10 – Here’s David Burke in front of his own half-back line, picking up a Darren Gleeson puck-out. Note his position. He’s playing very close to the Galway half-backs:

19:44: Here’s David Burke again, picking off a clearance from Michael Cahill from a short puck-out to Darren Gleeson. He reads this very well and this passage of well in the first instance:

20:07: After play develops, Tipp clear their lines and ball is worked back down the field. Ronan Maher is turned over and who’s on the breaking ball? David Burke:

He plays a low ball into Conor Whelan, who’s fouled by James Barry and that leaves Joe Canning with the simple task of slotting the ball over the bar.

27:48: Galway’s defence very much on top again from another long, Darren Gleeson clearance. Adrian Tuohy and Padraic Mannion were very much in charge on the right side of defence, and David Burke’s in possession here again, playing a very effective role with his half-back line:

30th minute: From a long Dan McCormack clearance, John McGrath is marked very tightly on a dropping ball by Tuohy. Galway are on the attack again and when the ball moves forward to Conor Cooney, he misses a decent chance. It’s a let-off for Tipp but the opportunity originates from more strong defensive play.

31:46: Here’s John McGrath bearing down on the Galway goal from the Nally stand side in the 32nd minute:

But look, in the next picture, how Galway apply pressure, with three players converging on McGrath:

The ball eventually spills loose and as Galway prepare to clear, they have no fewer than seven outfield players in the contact area:

34:38: From a long James Barry clearance to the edge of the square, Galway deal comfortably with it.

First, Adrian Tuohy and then Pádraic Mannion tidy up, and Mannion is fouled by Seamus Callanan on his way out.

The feature here is that Tipp are still playing very direct as the game progresses.

There are plenty of long balls for the Galway backs to deal with, but they’re in charge virtually every single time. They’re tight under the dropping ball and ravenous on the breaks.

35:45: Joseph Cooney has scored for Galway from the throw-in, but the defensive trend continues from Tipp’s next puck-out, with Pádraic Mannion onto the break, before he transfers to Aidan Harte for a completed clearance.

This leads to Conor Cooney’s goal chance, which he flashes just wide. Again, strong defensive work from Galway leads to an opportunity at the other end of the field.

38th minute: Daithí Burke picks up a ball unchallenged, in the first instance, and gets it clear. Brendan Maher intercepts for Tipp and sends it down the field. Galway win the ball back with Gearóid McInerney but Maher intercepts again. Look at the pressure he’s under here:

The ball squirts loose to Seamus Callanan but as he looks to make headway, the Galway cavalry have regrouped and now focus their intentions on him:

Callanan wins a free but those moments illustrate how much intensity Galway are bringing to the table. In an overall context, Daithí Burke very much had the better of his duel on Seamus Callanan.

The Tipp forward did score two terrific points in the first half but on both occasions, he had been blocked down initially.

He was almost in for a goal from a Burke mistake but the Galway man was very much in charge as the game went on, and Callanan had no real influence on the game.

He did take a heavy shot to the head, which certainly can’t have helped, and missed a couple of chances from placed balls after that as well, which was a factor.

Daithi Burke with Seamus Callanan Daithí Burke had the upper hand on Tipp's Seamus Callanan. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

I’ve previously mentioned the influence of Burke at full back and McInerney at centre. McInerney was immense yesterday, you could run a separate piece on him alone, and he lorded the skies, particularly in the second half.

At corner back, Tuohy was picking up John McGrath and overall, the Galway defence was just really good.

Tipp did hit some outstanding scores to keep the scoreboard ticking over but they had to work hard for them, and a 1-18 total wasn’t enough.

Tipp also had goal chances – three of them – that they didn’t take.

John McGrath’s in the first half was very welcome at the time but Tipp were a bit off, that’s how I’d look at it, and it’s been a trend since the heavy League final defeat to Galway.

Tipp struggled to find their best form, even though they tried hard yesterday.

Tipp off-colour

8:28: Brendan Maher hits a poor wide from under the Hogan Stand, from a Noel McGrath pass.

9:59: Tipp try to work a short line ball. Noel McGrath plays it to John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, but Noel lets the return drift out over the line.

13:24: Michael Cahill does well to clear a dangerous situation and Donagh Maher is first to the ball. But Donagh misses his touch, drops his stick and that allows Cathal Mannion the chance to gather possession. He plays the ball to Conor Whelan, who picks out Conor Cooney for a point:

17:58: Brendan Maher plays a line-ball straight to David Burke.

18:49: John McGrath misses a very good chance, albeit under pressure from two Galway players.

27:19: Brendan Maher works a short line-ball to Bubbles, takes the return but, under no pressure, strikes wide off his left hand side from under the Hogan Stand.

71:02: A crucial moment. Noel McGrath’s brilliant line-ball finds Michael Cahill in space. It’s a simple enough chance but Cahill takes an extra yard and Conor Whelan executes a fine hook:

I don’t want to sound critical of Tipp here but the simple fact of the matter is that the team wasn’t at its best, and got punished for it.

Game-winning moments

Colm Callanan pulled off an excellent first half save from his Tipp namesake, Seamus, and the Galway goalkeeper also did well to keep out Noel McGrath in the second half.

But what was noteworthy about the Callanan goal attempt was how played switched to the other end of the pitch, and Conor Whelan scored a Galway point.

That’s a four-point swing, in effect. To pretty much sum up everything I’ve discussed above, there was a vital passage of play in the 17th minute.

First of all, Darren Gleeson played the ball to Pádraic Maher, who delivered a long clearance.

Adrian Tuohy ties up John McGrath and Daithí Burke gets onto the ball, before clearing it up the line under the Hogan Stand.

Niall Burke breaks the ball infield and it’s picked up by Gearóid McInerney. Pádraic Maher goes to mow him down but he bounces backwards off McInerney:

McInerney’s ball inside should be picked up by Mikey Breen, but he misses it and Aidan Harte plays it diagonally into the right corner, to Conor Cooney.

The ball is moved inside to Conor Whelan, who picks it low, turns Michael Cahill and puts the ball over the bar.

It’s a crucial passage of play, and Galway move 0-7 to 0-5 ahead, having been 0-1 to 0-4 behind.

But it’s what happened in that passage that’s so important.

With Tuohy ruling out John McGrath, Daithí Burke’s onto the break, but why not a Tipp player?

The big collision between Maher and McInerney goes in Galway’s favour and while the next break favours a Tipp player, he fails to tidy it up under no real pressure, and the Tribesmen punish that mistake.

Joe’s wonder point

Even though Galway were in charge of the game, they still could have lost it. But in fairness, Joe Canning had an outstanding second half.

He wasn’t that sharp looking in the first half, missed a couple of frees and hit a poor wide over his shoulder just before half-time. But when the game needed to be won, he stood up and won it for Galway.

The point he scored was out of this world but Johnny Coen did brilliantly, showing huge composure to keep control of the ball and nail that little pass back to Joe.

It was only a half chance but an outstanding score, at a time when the match was in the melting pot, and late in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Galway found a way to win – and they deserved it.

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