Saturday 22 October 2016

Tipp ready to atone for last August

Galway forward Joe Canning. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway forward Joe Canning. Photo: Sportsfile

This year's second All-Ireland SHC semi-final has a lot to live up to. Not just to try and match the majesty of last weekend's Kilkenny/Waterford draw, but to emulate the oscillating wonder of last year's collision of Galway and Tipperary.

Then, Séamus Callanan did enough to almost win the match on his own ... and yet he had to settle for the individual plaudits while Galway took the collective booty.

That performance, and result, was a measure of the Tribesmen's capacity for high-octane hurling excellence on the biggest stage. Stitching a necklace of such performances together has been the hard part, stretching back over close on three decades.

Hard questions were asked after Galway's latest fadeout against Kilkenny. Accusations of gutlessness came from a familiar source (aka Ger Loughnane). Backed into a corner, they came out fighting against Clare.

But it wasn't just a voracious work ethic (epitomised by Joe Canning) that Galway brought to the table, but their intelligence.


For this Micheál Donoghue deserves praise: he got his match-ups and his tactics spot on for that make-or-break quarter-final. But now he faces a conundrum familiar to many of his predecessors: eclipsing that display as the bar is raised. For on all the available summer evidence, Tipperary have been performing at a far higher level than Clare.

They look a physically stronger, more resolute and balanced unit than last year's model. It may be his first year as main man, but already this Tipp collective carry the stamp of Michael Ryan. Without tearing up the script, he has strengthened the team.

Michael Breen has been a revelation at midfield; John McGrath has taken to the senior stage as if he were born to it. Are there caveats or reasons to be cautious? Of course. They know, intimately, just how dangerous an opponent Galway can be.

And, just like last year, they must overcome the competitive impediment of a five-week hiatus since the Munster final. Here's another thought - are we talking up Tipp on the grounds of a provincial campaign where all three of their vanquished rivals, Cork, Limerick and Waterford, floundered to a greater or lesser degree?

Is it a case that they remain untested in hothouse championship conditions, or has their game moved several steps ahead of the rest down south?

If Galway bring the same intensity to Croker as they did to Thurles, then Tipp's mettle will indeed be tested and the response will be illuminating.  All things considered, though, their favouritism is justified.

They've been more consistent than Galway; their attacking quality has never been in question but they've strengthened elsewhere; and they have the motivation of atoning for last August.

ODDS: Tipperary 4/9 Draw 10/1 Galway 9/4 VERDICT: Tipperary

Tipperary v Galway, Croke Park Tomorrow 3.30 (live RTÉ1)

Promoted articles

Entertainment News