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Tuesday 19 September 2017

Tipp to edge clash of the ash attacks

 

Tipp’s John O’Dwyer (right) and Wexford’s Shaun Murphy battle for possession during their Allianz HL Division 1 semi-final.
Tipp’s John O’Dwyer (right) and Wexford’s Shaun Murphy battle for possession during their Allianz HL Division 1 semi-final.
Galway’s Joe Canning. Pics: Sportsfile

Here's an equation to set the scene for tomorrow's Allianz Hurling League final at the Gaelic Grounds ... Galway 2-44 equals Tipperary 5-35.

Confused? You shouldn't be. The most high-scoring stalemate in the history of hurling? Not quite.

Rather, this is the cumulative scoreline between these arch-rivals from their meetings in the 2015 All-Ireland SHC semi-final and last year's corresponding fixture.

Galway emerged triumphant, via an injury-time point, in the first of these thrill-a-minute showdowns by 0-26 to 3-16. Tipperary gained sweet revenge last August, aided by a double-whammy of goals beyond the hour, to sneak home by 2-19 to 2-18.

That's how close it has been between these sides on the recent days that really mattered.

Cue tomorrow's rematch - not quite as significant, perhaps, but there is still national silverware on the line. And neither side, not even All-Ireland champions Tipperary, can get all choosy at that prospect.

Curious

Here's a curious fact. During a decade when they have been by far the most consistent rival to Kilkenny's dominance, Tipperary haven't won a league title since 2008.

That victory came against Galway, also in Limerick, and the 3-18 to 3-16 result carries echoes of more recent encounters. It also reinforces the suspicion that when these two counties lock hurls, the end result is usually end-to-end, man-for-man combat delivering a flurry of scores.

John McIntyre - former Tipp hurler and the last Galway manager to deliver league glory to his adopted county in 2010 - was quoted this week as saying it could be "a shootout" between a talent-laden Tipp attack and a "potentially lethal" Galway forward line. Hard to disagree.

Tipp's arsenal has been reduced, of course, by Séamus Callanan's broken thumb ... but whereas Callanan destroyed the Galway full-back line in defeat two summers ago, he was well shackled in victory last August.

Besides, as last Sunday's semi-final against Wexford merely reinforced, Michael Ryan has such a luxury of forward options that the loss of one talisman is manageable.

The McGrath brothers, Noel and John, plundered 2-2 apiece from play. Bubbles O'Dwyer didn't even start, but came on to reveal a playmaking string to his bow with a sublime assist for the elder McGrath.

Then you have Michael Breen, introduced at half-time to influential effect, with 0-4 from half-forward.

Galway boss Micheál Donoghue has previously shown an aptitude for clever defensive match-ups. Even without Callanan to worry about, he'll need to be savvy once more.

Last weekend wasn't the perfect Premier performance - Wexford had the momentum and were just two adrift, as late as the 59th minute. Yet Tipp's riposte - 3-6 over the next 15 minutes - revealed not alone the confidence of champions, but also their ruthlessness.

This reporter was in Nowlan Park and later watched a TV rerun of the Galway/Limerick semi-final. There was a palpable gulf in intensity, pace, and all-round quality.

That, in fairness, was more the fault of Limerick than Galway, who won at their ease by ten points.

John McIntyre is right: in Conor Cooney (1-4 against Limerick), Cathal Mannion (0-4), Conor Whelan and Joe Canning (notwithstanding his wayward radar last Sunday) Galway have the forwards to punish any suspect defensive resolve.

But even if history points to another edge-of-the-seat humdinger, Tipp's spring form has been more consistent and compelling.

Odds: Tipp 1/2 Draw 10/1 Galway 2/1

Verdict: Tipperary

  • Allianz HL 1 Final Tipperary v Galway (Tom 3.30, live TG4)

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