Tipperary crown an outstanding week
SEÁN MORAN Reports
ALL-IRELAND UNDER-21 HURLING FINAL Tipperary 5-22 Galway 0-12: AT THE end of what must surely be the best week a hurling county ever had, Tipperary wrapped up the Bord Gáis Energy GAA All-Ireland Under-21 championship within roughly the amount of time it takes to type in the name of the competition.
Emulating what the seniors managed the previous Sunday, Tipp knocked off 2-1 in about three minutes but this time there was no chance of the verdict remaining open even though the scores came at the very start of Saturday evening’s floodlit match in Thurles, attended by a smaller than expected 21,110.
Maybe Galway displeasure at the venue contributed to the shortfall but pessimistic expectation surely also played a role.
Galway, with a distinctly younger team many of whom will still be under-21 next year, were always going to be underdogs in this and although the county could regret a litany of wides and some misfortune as having prevented them from keeping the eventual margin decent, they were completely outgunned by an exceptional under-21 side.
It wasn’t just that the Munster champions could field five players who had halted the Kilkenny five-in-a-row or even that three of them are so talented and physically precocious that they played last week in central positions for the seniors but the quality of the supporting cast and the team’s telepathic intricacies created an at-times awesome force that atomised Galway in the most one-sided final in the championship’s history.
Brian O’Meara was awarded the official man-of-the-match designation for a bustling but also creative display that shed light on Liam Sheedy’s decision to spring the player for Tipp’s opening senior championship encounter last May, the now infamous wipe-out by Cork after which O’Meara picked up a retrospective suspension.
It’s safe to say, however, that his senior career has only been slightly delayed.
His understanding with Kilruane club-mate Séamus Hennessy at centrefield was another feature of the evening. Within 30 seconds of the throw-in O’Meara had taken a high ball from John O’Dwyer and crashed in the opening goal. Two minutes later, on receipt of a laser-guided pass from Hennessy, O’Meara returned the compliment for O’Dwyer and that’s the way matters proceeded.
Apart from a fallow period for the winners in the second quarter, which failed to enable the gap to be reduced to fewer than seven points, the heat was intense. Corner back Gerard O’Halloran did his best to impose some order but for the most part Galway’s defence was spitting on bonfires.
Another senior Patrick Maher also contributed massively to creating space and opportunity for the attack – rampaging through to set up Seán Carey for the third goal in the 15th minute – and even harvested a 41st-minute goal in due recognition of his efforts.
Playing with the wind Galway managed nine wides in the first half but still finished with a handful of unanswered scores to leave just seven in it, 0-9 to 3-7, at the break. From the restart however normal service was resumed and four points, O’Meara, Paddy Murphy and two from Noel McGrath, who came alive with a vengeance after a somnolent first half, stretched the lead to 11.
Gerard Kelly found space to clip a shot off the Tipperary crossbar and minutes later Galway’s talented Richie Cummins, carrying an injury, had to be replaced.
A couple of the Galway replacements, Joseph Cooney junior and the turbo charged Bernard Burke, had an impact but the margin was heading in only one direction, as the winners outscored their opponents 2-15 to 0-3 in the second half.
On most of occasions the imposing defence, anchored by captain Pádraic Maher (switched to full back in place of the suspended John Coughlan) and Brendan Maher, was discomfited goalkeeper James Logue brought off some sharp saves.
The goals concluded when McGrath’s long-distance free plopped under the bar and into the net in the 47th minute and thereafter it was just a question of how big the eventual margin would be. Near the end Galway’s Niall Quinn was red carded for an elbow on Pádraic Maher.
Winning manager Ken Hogan reflected on how, like the seniors but without their safety net, the season nearly came apart in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. “We were 30 seconds away from being knocked out of the Munster Championship and our season would have been over in Cork that night.
“Our motto was ‘Team before me’ all along. Those guys were driven and it was a pleasure to work with them and Tommy Dunne, a tremendous coach, TJ Connolly and Willie Maher. It gave me a new life and a new sense of identity to work with these guys.”
TIPPERARY : J Logue; K O’Gorman, Pádraic Maher (capt), M Cahill; J Barry, B Maher (0-1, free) , C Hough; S Hennessy (0-3, 65, free), N McGrath (1-3, 1-0 free); S Carey (1-3), Patrick Maher (1-0), B O’Meara (1-3, 0-1 free); M Heffernan (0-2), P Murphy (0-2), J O’Dwyer (1-3). Subs : C Coughlan for O’Gorman (43 mins), J O’Neill (0-1) for O’Dwyer (52 mins), A Ryan for Murphy (52 mins), J Gallagher for McGrath (55 mins), K Morris (0-1, free) for Heffernan (56 mins).
GALWAY : K Finnegan; G O’Halloran, P Gordon, D Connolly; N Donoghue, D Burke (capt; 0-2, frees) , S Linnane; J Coen (0-2), B Daly (0-1); J Regan (0-1), N Quinn (0-1) , E Forde; R Cummins, G Burke (0-1), G Kelly (0-1). Subs: J Cooney (0-1) for Forde (23 mins), B Burke (0-1) for G Burke (26 mins), J Grealish (0-1) for Linnane (41 mins), D Glennon for Cummins (45 mins), B Flaherty for Gordon (51 mins).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).
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