Heroes wear capes for a reason, so that people will know who to go to in the event of an an emergency. There’d be no point in Superman or Spiderman having their own movies if they weren’t going to pop up in the end and save the day.
Cometh the hour, cometh the hero. Cometh the hour, cometh Joe Canning.
It was fitting that in the weekend that was in it, after the publication of an enthralling interview that opened up the depth of his humanity, that it would be the depth of his talent that would swing the day at Croke Park.
When his free near the end fell short, forcing Tipperary into yet another extraordinary clearing of their lines, it was Tipp’s misfortune and Pádraic Mannion’s and Johnny Coen’s sleight of mind and hand that saw the ball return to the paw of Canning.
This time, from 60 yards out near the sideline, he made no mistake, breaking Tipperary hearts and firing his county into a September decider into which they will go bearing the mantle of favouritism.
Thirteen times Tipp and Galway were level on Sunday afternoon. They to-ed and fro-ed in a game of manic endeavour before leaving us with a situation of guaranteed heartbreak for one or other of them at the climax. A draw may have been a fitting result, but a draw would have left both teams unsatisfied and both supporters having to endure the stress of another tit-for-tat encounter.
In between those thirteen periods of equality, both sides refused to allow the other out of sight. Tipp started on fire and built up a three-point lead before Galway mastered the slippy pitch and started to pile pressure on the Tipp defence, scoring seven points to just one reply from their opponents.
Coen and Burke were masterful and conducted the orchestra in the middle of the park, but just as Galway seemed to be containing Tipp, John McGrath struck with an opportunistic goal.
For all their efforts, Galway’s lead was wiped out and at the break, they still trailed Tipperary by the minimum.
The pace didn’t drop after the break and it took an incredible save from Colm Callanan to deny Noel Maher, and points from Mannion and Canning to keep Galway in it. Both sides wasted opportunities before that incredible finale. Responding to a O’Dwyer point, Canning struck again to give Galway the lead, but Brendan Maher’s injury time point seemed set to send us to a replay.
In the end, Canning’s free dropped short to groans from the mentally exhausted crowd, but when the cleared sliotar came to Johnnie Coen, who fed Canning perfectly, the Portumna man’s radar knew where the posts were, and over it sailed to give Galway a lead that this time they would not relinquish.
To say that this game could have gone either way is an understatement. Whoever lost this game was going to feel cheated, hard done by, and so it was with Tipperary. After a torrid season, they just fell short by the minimum. Back to back All-Ireland hopes dashed by a team who haven’t known Championship success since they last had back to back success.
Afterwards manager Mícheál Donoghue classed the game a match of epic proportions that he felt was heading for a replay. “I looked at my watch at one stage and saw 64 minutes, and couldn’t believe how quickly the second half had gone by.”
He felt the Canning point was a thing of beauty.
“I said outside to somebody, when he gets a ball in that position there is a great chance it is going to go over. I think in big games like that, big moments are defined by your big players and he really stood up to the mark.”
“Tipp deserve huge credit for the role they played in this game. I was afraid that it might go to a shootout and so it was again.
“I thought we were doing fine, the goal was probably a defensive mistake, but in fairness to John McGrath he stuck it well.
“We just felt there were a few areas we needed to improve on at halftime. Our workrate and tackle count was down so we challenged them to up it; I think they did that in the second half.”
“For five weeks, we have been away at a training camp and we endeavoured to get the intensity we needed. We were happy enough with the intensity of the game even though it probably took us 10-15 minutes to get into the driving seat after half time.”
He said that it is the role of himself and his team to manage expectation, and vowed to not deviate from what they have been doing, in order to keep the players focused in the chaotic build up that will inevitably accompany the countdown to the final.
“The fact that so many of them have played in three-All-Irelands will definitely help. They will have something they can draw on.
“This group has a huge hunger and desire. We will keep challenging them and they will draw on good experiences and bad experiences. We have to keep everyone as grounded as much as we can,” he said.
Now Galway can prepare for an All-Ireland final against Cork or Waterford on September 3. It will be a day that will provide new champions; the McCarthy Cup will reside in a county where it has not for some time. The challenge now for Mícheál Donoghue and his team is to ensure that it is Galway’s name that will go on the roll of honour. But for now, there is the memory of Sunday and that wonderful winning point.
And then after the press day next Tuesday, this team can go off and prepare for that clash in 25 days time.
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 0-11 (6f, 1 ’65, 1 sideline ), Conor Whelan 0-4, Conor Cooney 0-2, Johnny Coen 0-2, Cathal Mannion 0-1, Joseph Cooney 0-1, Padraic Mannion 0-1 (f ).
Scorers for Tipperary: Seamus Callanan 0-5 (3f ), John McGrath 1-0, John O’Dwyer 0-3, Noel McGrath 0-3, Brendan Maher 0-3 (2f ), Padraic Maher 0-2, Seamus Kennedy 0-1.
GALWAY: Colm Callanan; Adrian Tuohey, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Padraic Mannion, Gearoid McInerney, Aidan Harte; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Niall Burke, Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning; Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion. Subs: Jason Flynn for Niall Burke (45 ), Jonathan Glynn for Cathal Mannion (53 ), Shane Maloney for Conor Cooney (69 ).
TIPPERARY: Darren Gleeson; Donagh Maher, James Barry, Michael Cahill; Seamus Kennedy, Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher; Brendan Maher, Michael Breen; Dan McCormack, Noel McGrath, Patrick Maher; John O’Dwyer, Seamus Callanan, John McGrath. Subs: Jason Forde for Michael Breen (34 ), Niall O’Meara for Jason Forde (61 ).