By John Fogarty
The proverbial game of two halves in Salthill but a wind-assisted half-time lead of seven points wasn’t nearly enough for Tipperary to hang on.
Looking leggy after their first-half exercises, the visitors, who had been eight up at one stage, were turned over in merciless fashion by a Galway team who simply looked like they wanted to be in the knock-out stages more than their opponents.
A 16-point turnaround, achieved in no small part by a Conor Whelan brace of goals, the latter of them in the 57th minute putting Galway into the lead for the first time, will give Liam Sheedy plenty to muse over when flying to Spain today.
For the second weekend in succession, they had conceded a multitude of frees and whereas Páraic Mahony let them off the hook in Semple Stadium seven days earlier Evan Niland wasn’t so charitable.
“Once Galway started coming at us I have to say they killed us in the middle third,” conceded Sheedy. “Every time the ball broke, it was a Galway player onto it. We went two on two inside and they exposed us.
“It’s very hard for lads to defend the ball because the quality of the ball was just too good. Galway were well on top in that sector and probably when you look at it we didn’t really win any position in that second half. We were completely outplayed and Galway were full value for their win and it ends our interest in this League competition.”
When the likes of Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer had spoken in recent weeks of wanting to win the league they weren’t telling lies. But such is the intensity of their training programme, including the visit to the Costa Blanca this week, that their bodies mightn’t have been able to react accordingly.
Instead, it’s a Joe Canning-less Galway who go through to face Wexford in the quart-final and they deserved it for the graft they demonstrated not just in the second half when they were pulling apart Tipperary’s back-line but in the first when Evan Niland’s free-taking kept the margin relatively respectable.
“He did very well from play as well,” said manager Shane O’Neill. “Fabulous stickman. Particularly in these conditions. He was superb.”
Tipperary led 3-7 to 0-9 at the interval, a lead that flattered them but augmented by a 1-3 flurry between the 31st and 35th minutes. John McGrath’s poaching goals in the third and 21st minutes had kept them on top but despite the wind advantage they only led by two points up to the purple patch.
Jason Forde’s 35th minute goal showed a flicker of Tipperary’s potential, Callanan and Darcy combining beautifully to set up their team-mate, but it wasn’t backed up following the turnaround.
Instead, Galway netted in the city end goal when the impressive Brian Concannon set up Whelan. Tipperary were keeping the scoreboard ticking over and led by three points in the 54th minute but for the remainder they were outscored 2-6 to 0-1. Whelan’s finish for his second goal was superb despite the close attention of Ronan Maher while Cathal Mannion sealed it with a third in the 65th minute.
Sheedy, although questioning the 13 to three free count against Tipperary in the first half, knew what it looked and felt like: “We were overran, overplayed and obviously the way we structured ourselves in that second half is something I will have to look at as well.”
In the other dressing room O’Neill could only praise the honesty of his men: “It goes back to what we have been looking for the last couple of weeks, just to have an unreal work-rate and I think the work-rate was there again. I thought we were beginning to lose a little bit of discipline towards the end but in fairness they kept their discipline and work-rate.
“They were superb throughout but particularly in the second half.”
As for absentees, Sheedy confirmed Tipperary unsuccessfully contested Cathal Barrett’s red card against Waterford for attempted striking — while O’Neill couldn’t give a return date for quad injury victim Joe Canning.
Scorers for Galway: E Niland (0-14, 13 frees); C Whelan (2-0); B Concannon (0-4); J Coen, C Cooney, J Flynn (sideline) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary: J McGrath (2-1); J Forde (1-5, 2 65s, 2 frees); C Darcy (0-2); S. Callanan, R Maher, Pádraic Maher, D Quirke, M Breen (0-1 each).
GALWAY: J Skehill; D Morrissey, G McInerney, P Killeen; P Mannion (c), S Cooney, F Burke; J Coen, A Harte; C Mannion, C Whelan, E Niland; C Cooney, J Flynn, B Concannon.
Subs for Galway: S Loftus for P Killeen (26); A Tuohy for S.Cooney (46); D Burke for P Mannion, N Burke for J Flynn (both 57); K Cooney for B. Concannon (67).
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; Paul Maher, B Heffernan, R Maher; S Kennedy, Pádraic Maher, A Flynn; N McGrath, G Browne; J Forde, S Callanan (c), D Quirke; J McGrath, J. O’Dwyer, C Darcy.
Subs for Tipperary: S O’Brien for Paul Maher, M Breen for G Browne (both 48); P Flynn for J O’Dwyer (57); D. McCormack for D Quirke (59); J Cahill for C Darcy (69).
Referee: J. Murphy (Limerick).
How they lined out
Conor Whelan’s second goal, a brilliant individual effort, put Galway ahead for the first time in the game and there was no catching them after that.
A second lacklustre display by Tipperary in the space of seven days. They won’t worry too much about it and coming into the Championship quieter than others might suit them but the collapse here was brutal.
Not that Shane O’Neill needed this victory but it did the new Galway manager a favour here. Any outside manager knows that wins, whether they come in March or August, count for something.
For the second spring running, it would appear Tipperary have a discipline problem but on this occasion their entire performance in the second half simply let them down. They were there in body but their minds might have already drifted to Spain.
Joe Canning remains sidelined with a calf injury but his free-taking replacement Evan Niland did him proud.
Liam Sheedy admitted afterwards that he might have structured his team better in the second half. Without too much protection against that wind, his inside defenders looked isolated and paid a heavy price.
BEST ON SHOW
Conor Whelan’s goals and leadership were impressive as was Niland’s free-taking, particularly against the breeze in the first half. However, Brian Concannon’s performance stood out ahead of his team-mates.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
A mixed bag for Johnny Murphy. Played some good advantage at times but the free count against Tipperary appeared to be lopsided. Seemed to let things flow more in the second half.
Galway face Wexford for a place in the semi-finals this weekend. Tipperary fly out to Spain today to complete a five-day warm weather training camp and they are next in action on May 10 when they face Waterford in their opening Munster SHC game in Walsh Park.