Tipperary 4-23 Galway 1-14
Seven months after their All-Ireland triumph the plaudits keep coming for Tipperary’s hurlers, but they’re not making them soft. Galway sportingly applauded the visitors onto the pitch at the start of Sunday’s National League match at Pearse Stadium in Salthill, before Tipp gradually dismantled the table toppers with a clinical display.
The result was as surprising as it was emphatic. Tipp supporters in the attendance of 5,247, who made the long journey west more in hope than expectation, were rewarded with a performance that bordered on exhibition stuff and offered them a glimmer of hope of reaching the league final on May 1st.
After the game there was a new name on the supporters lips. 22 year-old Shane Bourke was hauled off at half time when Tipp drew with Cork the previous week, but on only his fourth appearance for the senior team (and his second start) the JK Brackens player announced his arrival on the scene loud and clear on Sunday by scoring 3-4 from play.
Bourke, who won an All-Ireland Minor medal 5 years ago, set a marker for his man of the match display by scoring the opening two points of the game inside the first four minutes. He scored his first goal 3 minutes after the re-start when he smashed home a shot from the tightest of angles after Patrick Maher, Lar Corbett, Pa Bourke and John O’Brien had cut a swathe through the Galway defence.
He also had a point in that blitz at the beginning of the second half that saw Tipp score 1-3 in four minutes to stretch their half time advantage of 1-10 to 1-8 to 8 points, and virtually put the outcome beyond any doubt.
By the time Bourke scored his second and third goals his team were out of sight. The second resulted from an audacious piece of skill that saw him dispossess Ciaran O’Donovan before he batted the ball to the net, a score that extended the lead to 11 points and sent some Galway supporters streaming towards the exits with 13 minutes remaining.
The third, 6 minutes from the finish, was a more straightforward affair, as he took a pass from substitute Brian O’Meara and swept a low shot past Galway goalie Colm Callanan.
This was a reality check for Galway, or as their manager John McIntyre out it, “a kick up the rear end”. There was a suggestion that they trained on Sunday morning, an unlikely scenario given their position at the head of the table and the fact that they were entertaining the All-Ireland champions in a match that attracted a sizeable attendance to a breezy but sunny Pearse Stadium.
For whatever reason they looked a pale shadow of the team that almost beat Tipp in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
From the throw-in Tipp were composed and assured, moving the ball with precision, fluency and accuracy. This 18-points hammering was enhanced by the contributions of 10 different scorers, and when Benny Dunne scored in the 22nd minute all the six forwards that started had scored.
All but 3 points of their total came from play, another impressive statistic.
Their first goal came in the 22nd minute, just seconds before that Benny Dunne point, when John O’Brien hoovered up Pa Bourke’s sideline in a flash and buried a low shot past Colm Callanan.
Lar Corbett, on only his second start of the year, was operating below capacity but still managed to toss over 4 points, almost effortlessly, and popped up all over the field before he departed three minutes from the end having tweaked his hamstring.
Patrick Maher was typically combative and competitive, giving 100% as usual. Having scored just a point (against Kilkenny) in his team’s five previous matches The Bonnar opened up in style here, scoring 4 times from play.
Pa Bourke slotted into a wing forward role with relative ease while Benny Dunne maintained his consistent run of form.
In the absence of the injured Brendan Maher, Gearoid Ryan continues to bed down very effectively at centre field, as he combined very well with Shane McGrath.
Padraic Maher too is growing into the role of centre back and he gave another polished and confident display on Sunday. In a defensive unit that coped mostly comfortably with Galway’s threat other individual highlights were supplied by the full line of captain, Paul Curran; Michael Cahill and John Coghlan.
This result means that three ifs surround Tipp’s prospects of reaching the final. In the final round of matches the weekend after next they need to beat Wexford at Semple Stadium on April 17th and hope that Waterford beat Galway and Cork defeat Dublin. The unlikely prospect of Offaly taking something from Kilkenny would also help their situation.
The signs were ominous for Galway when they were 2 points down at half time, despite having played with the assistance of a stiff breeze. They scored the game’s opening goal in the 10th minute when Joseph Cooney’s wind-assisted free was forced over the line by Eoin Forde and when Ger Farragher added a free a minute later they were ahead by a goal.
Tipp, though, reeled off five points without reply (from Patrick Maher, Lar Corbett, John O’Brien, and two from Pa Bourke) to regain their lead.
John O’Brien’s goal and further points from Benny Dunne, Lar Corbett and Pa Bourke’s ‘65 meant that Tipp were 6 ahead when Galway mounted a mini comeback towards the conclusion of the half, scoring four unanswered points to leave just 2 between them.
The second half, though, was one-sided. Galway, rocked by Tipp’s lightning start to the second period, were unlucky not to retrieve the situation to some degree when Cyril Donnellan hit the inside of a post with a ground shot from an acute angle when they were 8 points behind.
Substitutes Aidan Harte and Johnny Coen injected more life into the faltering challenge, while David Burke also tried hard, but Tipp were in cruise control for much of the second half. Galway haven’t beaten Tipp in a competitive match in four years and on this occasion their team was well beaten long before the finish.
Tipperary - Darren Gleeson, John Coghlan, Paul Curran, Michael Cahill, David Young, Padraic Maher, John O’Keeffe, Gearoid Ryan (0-1), Shane McGrath (0-1), Benny Dunne (0-1), Patrick Maher (0-4), Pa Bourke (0-4 including 1 free and 1’ 65), Lar Corbett (0-4), John O’Brien (1-1) and Shane Bourke (3-4).
Substitutes – Brian O’Meara (0-1) for John O’Brien (47 minutes), Sean Carey (0-2 including 1 free) for Benny Dunne (54 minutes), Michael Gleeson for Gearoid Ryan (63 minutes), James Woodlock for John O’Keeffe (63 minutes) and John O’Neill for Lar Corbett (67 minutes).
Galway – Colm Callanan, Gerard O’Halloran, Ciaran O’Donovan, Damien Joyce (captain), Donal Barry, Tony Og Regan, Adrian Cullinane (0-1), David Burke (0-1 free), Ger Farragher (0-5 including 4 frees), Joseph Cooney, Andy Smith (0-2), Cyril Donnellan, Eanna Ryan, Iarla Tannian (0-1) and Eoin Forde (1-2).
Substitutes – Niall Donoghue for Gerard O’Halloran (30 minutes), Aidan Harte (0-1) for Joseph Cooney (37 minutes), John Lee for Damien Joyce (44 minutes), Johnny Coen (0-1) for Ger Farragher (45 minutes) and David Hayes for Tony Og Regan (60 minutes).
Referee – James Owens (Wexford).