Spotlight now shines on Tipperary hurlers

Spotlight now shines on Tipperary hurlers
By Eamonn Wynneewynne@nationalist.ie@TheNationalist

After the heroics performed by Tipperary's footballers in recent weeks, it's over to the county's senior and minor hurlers this weekend.

In the second and third of three hurling and football championship games against Galway this summer, Tipp take on Galway in the All-Ireland Minor and Senior Hurling semi-finals at Croke Park on Sunday.

The senior game starts at 3.30, while the minor tie gets underway at 1.30.

If the senior semi ends level then the teams will meet in a replay, while if necessary extra-time will be played in the curtain-raiser.

Following that stunning victory by the footballers in the All-Ireland quarter-final, hopes are high that Tipp can complete the treble over The Tribesmen this weekend.

In order to do so they'll have to turn the tables on a county that put a halt to Tipp's gallop in both hurling grades last year.

The seniors lost out to Galway by a point in the All-Ireland semi-final while Galway got the better of Tipp by six points in the All-Ireland Minor Final.

The senior hurling championship finally ignited last Sunday when Waterford and Kilkenny played out a dramatic draw in the first of the semi-finals.

The replay is fixed for Semple Stadium at 6.45 next Saturday evening. And with extra time in the event of the teams again finishing level at the end of 70 minutes, the identity of one of the finalists should be known by the time that Tipp and Galway take to the field the following day.

This all means that for the first time since 2003 both senior hurling All-Ireland semi-finals will be played on the same weekend.

Thirteen years ago Cork beat Wexford by 3-17 to 2-7 in the semi-final replay on Saturday August 16 and on the following day Kilkenny beat Tipp by 3-18 to 0-15. Kilkenny went on to beat Cork by three points in the final.

This will be the 28th senior championship clash between Tipp and Galway, with Tipp having won twenty to Galway’s seven of the previous twenty seven.

However it has been a much closer rivalry over the last 30 years, with each county having six wins from the last twelve games.

Tipp manager Michael Ryan is among those who have lavished praise on the Tipp footballers for their run to the All-Ireland semi-final, where they'll meet Mayo on Sunday week, August 21.

However he doesn't believe their success has allowed the hurlers to come into Sunday's big game under the radar.

“It’s a great story in Tipp and it is going to grab a lot of headlines and a lot of interest because it was such a historic achievement for the lads", he says.

"But it does not change anything from our perspective. We have got a huge challenge coming up on Sunday and I don’t think we will get in under the radar, to be honest with you - it’s an All-Ireland semi-final.”

If Tipp are to beat Galway and go on to win the All-Ireland championship then they'll have to reverse a trend that has seen the Munster champions fail to capture the McCarthy Cup in ten attempts since Cork's success in 2005, when they beat Galway in a final that, incidentally, was the the first to be played at the fully refurbished Croke Park.

When he was questioned about that poor record, Michael Ryan says “one of the very obvious answers is that they (the Munster champions) have come up against what is the best team as far as I am concerned in hurling and in hurling’s history in Kilkenny.

It’s not something that we are happy about in Munster. We're very proud of our province and we put a high value on winning a Munster final. That we haven’t, any of us, closed out the All-Ireland at the other end is disappointing. But none of us should underestimate how good Kilkenny have been and are.”

Last year's senior semi-final will be recalled for Seamus Callanan's brilliant individual performance, when he scored 3-9, and Noel McGrath's emotional return to the team following surgery for testicular cancer earlier in the year.

Most of all, however, it will be remembered for Galway's victory, which Michael Ryan says they fully deserved.

On Sunday Tipp will have the chance to put the record straight.