Fourth-quarter goals by Conor Whelan and Cathal Mannion helped a resurgent Galway overturn an eight-point first half deficit to end Tipperary’s involvement in the National League in front of a crowd of 5,750 enthralled spectators on yet another horrible afternoon weather-wise for sport in the west.
An appetising quarter-final away to Wexford on Saturday (3pm ) is the reward for Galway’s third home win of the campaign. Trailing by three with just over 15 minutes left, Galway soon had home supporters in full voice with an energetic, clinical surge to the final whistle to win by 3-21 to 3-§13.
This was Galway's first meeting with Tipperary since the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final, and in the early stages Galway had looked to be in some bother, having conceded three first-half goals - the pick of those strikes coming just before half-time when Cian Darcy played a sumptuous pass for Jason Forde to sneak in behind the cover and drill passed James Skehill.
The home side had done the majority of the quality hurling against the wind, but found themselves seven adrift, with Tipperary’s most successful tactic being of the route one variety rather than the silky interplay we so often associate with the All-Ireland champions.
Shane O’Neill’s side had done well to engineer nine scores, eight coming from the stick of Evan Niland, who was unerring from the seven placed balls he was presented with. Johnny Murphy’s fussy style of refereeing seemed to be to Galway’s advantage, but Tipp were still a major threat at times through John McGrath and Seamus Callanan.
Brian Concannon was the only other Galway player to register a score in the first half and the Killimordaly man was also pivotal to the second-half revival, picking off three excellent points from play, having earlier set up Whelan for a 40th minute goal to get his side back within three.
The Kinvara livewire was a scourge to the Tipperary defensive unit throughout, chasing every lost cause and forcing numerous turnovers where he had no right to. Still, Tipperary appeared to have weathered a Galway storm when three out of four scores put them 3-12 to 1-15 in front.
Galway were soon rampant though, Whelan - GAA.ie Hurler of the Week, whipping in a smashing goal before Concannon contributed another peach of a point from play in between two Niland frees. Niland then turned provider with five minutes left as Cathal Mannion raced away and beat Brian Hogan for a third time, ending any thoughts that Tipp might rally late as Galway registered a first home league win over their neighbours since 2007.
“I thought we were the better side in the first half,” O’Neill said. “We conceded a goal straight off and then we conceded 1-1 near the end of the half and we probably didn’t deal with the man they brought out to float around to create a one-v-one inside. They got 1-1 or 1-2 at the end of the half from that.
"But then our goals were taken brilliantly in the second half. I thought in the half-back line we were really strong also. We brought a lot of ball down that we hadn’t caught. And then in the second half, Conor’s goal was a superb catch. We were very competitive throughout everywhere.
“Even in the 50-50 balls, I think we made it extremely difficult for them to come out with them. Overall, from a workrate point of view, delighted.”
Having claimed the Leinster title last year, Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald would surely have his sights firmly fixed on picking up a national title this season. A home loss to Clare in round two would have dented confidence, but subsequent wins over Kilkenny, Dublin, and Carlow secured second place in Group B.
Galway have become frequent visitors to Wexford Park in recent years and will have to travel back there again at the end of May for a Leinster championship meeting, so whether this game will turn into shadow-boxing in some sense will have to be seen. O’Neill appears to be focusing on challenges further down the track. The two sides already met this year in the Walsh Cup final - Davy Fitzgerald's men came out on top by a single point, 1-16 to 0-18.
“We didn’t have a target as such with the league because we were just trying to see how we were going from game to game. So far, it’s going fairly well from a workrate point of view and creating that competitive squad for championship.
“It’s difficult because we’ve had a lot of niggles and injuries this week after three weeks on the trot, it’ll be four weeks on the trot now. So we’ll have to see where we stand as far as players are concerned. But you can’t beat the competitive matches.”
Galway: J Skehill; D Morrissey, G McInerney, P Killeen; A Harte, S Cooney, F Burke; P Mannion, J Coen (0-1 ); C Mannion (1-0 ), J Flynn (0-1 ‘sl ), E Niland (0-14, 13fs ); B Concannon (0-4 ), C Whelan (2-0 ), C Cooney (0-1 ). Subs: S Loftus for Killeen (25m ), A Tuohey for S Cooney (45m ), D Burke for P Mannion (56m ), N Burke for Flynn (56m ), K Cooney for Concannon (67m ).
Galway v Wexford: C Callanan (Kinvara, J Grealish (Gort ), D Burke (Turloughmore ), A Harte (Gort ), P Mannion (Ahascragh G McInerney (Oranmore Maree ) K Hussey (Turloughmore ), J Coen (Loughrea ), D Burke (capt St Thomas ), C Mannion (Ahascragh Fohenagh ), N Burke (Oranmore Maree ) J Flynn (Tommy Larkins ) C Whelan (Kinvara ), CCooney (St Thomas ), BConcannon (Killimordaly ).