By Kieran Rooney
DEVASTATION. You could see it in Galway manager John McIntyre’s face, you could feel the emotion in his voice as he tried to explain his team’s epic 3-17 to 3-16 defeat in the All-Ireland hurling quarter-final at Croke Park on Sunday.
An outstanding performance, but that’s it for Galway. Tipperary, on the other hand, are though to the semi-finals where they will face Waterford, while the other semi-final will see Kilkenny take on Cork.
To be fair to McIntyre he paid tribute to Tipperary. Any team that go into the dying minutes two points down and pulls out a victory is entitled to huge credit.
Tipperary were brilliant at times and probably just about deserved their win. McIntyre, a native of Tipperary, thought that his side deserved a free right at the death but, to give him his due, he wasn’t going to make too big a deal about it.
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Quite right too. This was the best game of the season, possibly the best game for quite a few seasons. Right from the start the two sides played with a pace, skill and determination that had the Croke Park crowd enthralled.
The sides were level on 10 occasions. Just as you thought one team might have an edge, the other hit back. That was the way it continued until Tipperary’s Lar Corbett hit a superb match-winning score in added time.
The victory was made all the sweeter because of the way many had written Tipperary off following the early Munster Championship defeat by Cork. “People have questioned the attitude and commitment of our players” stressed Tipp manager Liam Sheedy.
“But it was never an issue, as everyone could see, out there today. They left absolutely everything out on the pitch, their workrate in the closing minutes was fantastic. It looked as though it might not be our day, but the lads kept working as was humanly possible and they got their rewards in the end.”
Sheedy, to his credit, paid tribute to Galway. He knew exactly what they were going through, having seen Tipperary lose narrowly to Kilkenny in a last year’s All-Ireland decider.
He also knew that this was the second successive year that Galway had lost an All-Ireland quarter-final by a point. Maybe it was the extra bit of experience Tipperary had in the closing stages of the All-Ireland that proved to be the difference.
While Galway felt the tension when they establised their two point lead going into the final few minutes, Tipperary kept their heads. Substitute John O’Brien pointed before Ger Ryan sent another shot between the posts in stoppage time to level matters.
It needed a brilliant score to settle matters. Pa Bourke flicked a pass to Corbett who cleverly made room for himself before scoring the winner.
Even then, it was not over. Ger Farragher sent a long free into the square but with Galway looking for a free, the referee John Owens blew the final whistle.
Extra-time was about the only thing that was missing. Tipp looked the better team early on but a wonderful goal from Enna Ryan put Galway right back into it.
From there on, there was nothing in it. Eoin Kelly hit back with a blistering goal for Tipperary before Joe Canning’s accuracy enabled Galway to regain the lead.
Right on half-time, the situation was to change again, Noel McGrath flicking the ball through for Tipperary substitute Seamus Callanan to race clear and strike his shot past the keeper.
That left it 2-8 to 1-9 in Tipperary’s favor at the interval. Inevitably, Galway roared back, Damien Hayes availing of some sloppy Tippeary defending to score his team’s second goal.
It continued to ebb and flow, Gearoid Ryan securing Tipperary’s third goal before Joe Canning responed with a penalty for Galway. Eventually, Aonghus Callanan put Galway two points ahead with a couple of minutes remaining and many thought it was all over.
They were wrong, Tipperary’s true grit and the accuracy of Corbett made sure of that.
As for that late Farragher free, McIntyre argued that his substitute Niall Healy had “a bloodied mouth.”
Unfortunately for Galway, the referee didn’t see enough to warrant a free and it is Tipperary who go on to face Waterford in an August 15 semi-final. What a match that promises to be.
The same, of course, can be said of the other semi-final involving Kilkenny and Cork on Sunday week. On the form to date, Kilkenny look too good but somehow you know that Cork are going to raise their game against their biggest rivals.
They will have to. Sunday’s Cork Park 1-25 to 0-19 quarter-final success over Antrim was a case of Cork doing what they had to do, no more or no less.
Antrim came out of the match with a lot of credit. It took Cork until the 37th minute to establish control with a goal from Niall McCarthy and from there on they were always going to win.
Job done, the minds are now firmly on trying to dethrone Kilkenny. “It’s a huge challenge but it’s a once off are far as we are concerned.” admitted manager Denis Walsh.
But are Cork up to the task? “We’ll find that out. We are where we want to be, in an All-Ireland semi-final. We were probably a bit mentally tired after those two games against Waterford but against Kilkenny were are going to have to go out and give it absolutely everything. That’s all you can ask.”
Down, Dubs, Cork, Lilywhites
progress to big Croker weekend
THERE’S a huge amount to look forward to in next weekend’s All Ireland Football Championship quarter-finals.
Probably the meeting of Dublin and Tyrone is the pick of the matches. But the clash of Kerry and Down will bring back many memories, while there seems little to choose between Leinster rivals Meath and Kildare.
The final match will see Cork facing Roscommon. It’s the makings of a fascinating weekend, particularly as far as Dublin and Tyrone are concerned.
One suspects that the Dubs manager Pat Gilroy wasn’t exactly ecstatic when they were drawn against Tyrone. This is the fourth time in six years, counting a replay, they have come up against their Ulster rivals.
No doubt, they will again start as outsiders but there were definite signs of encouragement for the Dubs supporters when watching their side account of Louth by 2-14 to 0-13 in round four of the qualifiers last Saturday. The point can be made that Louth were pretty devastated following their controversial defeat by Meath in the Leinster decider.
Even allowing for that, however, this was a decent effort by the Dubs, particularly in the first half. They are a hugely improved outfit from the one that started out the championship.
The match was decided in that opening period, Eoghan O’Gara’s two goals helping Dublin to a 2-6 to 0-3 advantage. Although they let their standards drop in the second half, Gilroy was reasonably satisfied.
He said: “We are probably better prepared than we might have been had we won the provincial title. I think we are a better team. I think we are played more as a team than we did last year.”
Everyone had sympathy for Louth, given the neature of their defeat to Meath. They just couldn’t get going early on but, to his credit, their manager Peter Fitzpatrick didn’t look back.
“If we can keep this panel together we could be a force again next year.” he insisted. “In fairness, Dublin gave us a lesson in the first half but we played a lot better after the interval.”
Down made sure of their place in the semi-final by trouncing Sligo 3-20 to 0-10 at Breffni Park. The game followed a trend where all four beaten provincial finalists lost out in the fourth round of the qualifiers.
But few expected Sligo to lose by such a big score. Down’s only disappointments were injuries to forward Benny Counter and defender Damian Raffery. That apart, they ran rings around Sligo. Ambrose Rodgers dominated midfield besides scoring a goal.
Everyone contributed with substitute Ronan Murtagh scoring 1-5. But wisely, manager James McCartan is not getting carried away with the victory.
“Let’s face it, the system of a six-day turnaround was very unfair to Sligo,” he said. “We are not world beaters overnight”
The problem is that they may well need to be or near enough to that standard if they are to defeat Kerry.
Kildare too are progressing. It took them a while to realize that Monaghan weren’t up to much in the first game at Croke Park on Saturday but once they did they won even more comfortably then the final scoreline of 1-15 to 1-11 suggests.
Just like Louth and Sligo, Monaghan hadn’t recovered from their provincial final defeat. Kildare produced virtually all of the outstanding performances, with James Kavanagh scoring 0-5, four points coming from play, and setting up a goal.
Importantly, manager Kieran McGeeney now believes there is more in his team. He faces an interesting week in preparation for the Meath match but no one is quite sure what the future holds for Monaghan manager Seamus McEnaney.
He wasn’t prepared to state whether or not he would stay in the job following Saturday’s defeat. Down at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick once again came up just short when losing by 0-16 to 1-11 after extra-time to Cork.
While Limerick boss Mickey Ned O’Sullivan can quite rightly argue that his side should have been given a first half penalty, Cork deserved their success. They looked to be well on their way to victory before Limerick scored a goal from a penalty and a point in injury time to bring the game into extra-time.
Cork eventually got the job done in extra-time but they are still not at their best. Even so, manager Conor Counihan is well pleased to be in the quarter-finals where Cork would appear to have a plum draw against Roscommon.