By Mark Jones
Galway 2-18, Tipperary 2-13
With a hurling league decider as close to the start of the All-Ireland championship as this one, the inevitable question rears its head: what does the result mean for the two counties? For starters, Galway look to be in good fettle as they wait for their next round of competitive action in July, while Tipperary must have concerns as they prepare for a Munster clash with Waterford a week from Sunday.
There were concerns because they were outscored to the tune of 2-6 to 0-3 in the closing 30 minutes of last weekend’s final at the Gaelic Grounds, and concerns that the Tipp players appeared to lack the sort of determined streak needed for the bigger challenges ahead.
"I’m sure that if Waterford were watching in the stand," reflected Tipp manager Nicky English. "They won’t have been frightened by what they saw. There’s a lot to do and not very long to do it." Despite getting off to a good start, the losers offered little resistance once Galway began to move up through the gears.
English had to watch as his defense was pushed to the limit by the talents of Galway frontmen Fergal Healy and Ollie Fahy. Ollie Canning also grabbed two goals, while midfielder Rory Gantley hit nine frees as the Connacht champions sent out a warning to the rest of the country’s All Ireland contenders.
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Beaten by Tipp in last season’s league final, Galway manager Matt Murphy wasn’t hiding his pleasure at this reversal.
"Any time you lose it knocks you back, anyone who tells you differently is telling you a lie," Murphy said. "Any time you come up against a team that gets one over you, it’s not good. Last year we weren’t really mature enough, we’ve grown up."
Galway were forced to make a late change before the start when Kevin Broderick failed a fitness test, but under 21 player, David Tierney, came into the half-forward line and had an excellent match. Tipp struck the first blow when Paul Shelley’s persistence paid off and he was able to whip a shot past Michael Crimmins in the 11th minute, and although the winners hit some fine points through Healy, Fahy and Gantley to regain the initiative, Tipp were level 1-9 to 0-12 at the interval.
Then early in the second half, English’s side cracked in a second goal through Paddy O’Brien and David Kennedy’s angled point pushed the lead out to four. "We were in a good position then," said English, "but they closed us down completely after that. They were on top in so many parts of the field."
Canning started Galway’s surge to victory with a first goal in the 43rd minute and the same player fired home a second six minutes later. With Tierney picking up a lot of loose ball and Cathal Moore unyielding at center-back, the winners completely dominated the last half hour.
Long after most of the 15,000 crowd had drifted out of the Gaelic Grounds, English was asked if Tipp’s performance had been sidetracked by the prospect of a championship game against Waterford. "I hope so," he replied. Galway, meanwhile, had no such doubts.
Derry 2-13, Cavan 1-5
The championship kicked off in Ulster and football’s current roughhouse reputation was in no way dented as referee Brian White saw fit to dispense no fewer than 15 yellow cards at Breffni Park and one red card, to Cavan’s Fintan Cahill, who got his marching orders a quarter of an hour into the second half.
However, all the pulling, dragging and blocking couldn’t take anything away from Derry’s clinical performance. Dominant both tactically and physically, they saw off Cavan’s challenge with contemptuous ease and have boosted confidence levels for Saturday’s National League final replay against Meath.
With Anthony Tohill, Brian McGilligan and full forward Enda Muldoon in imperious form, Cavan were only able to show glimpses of their potential amid the avalanche of bookings. Cahill’s goal after 15 minutes gave them some hope, but there was simply no holding Derry’s stroll towards the semifinal.
"The performance, when does the performance matter?" responded the winners’ manager, Eamonn Coleman, to a barrage of questions about the game’s lack of quality. "The only thing that matters is that you’re ahead at the finish. We’ve been involved in classics against Down in ’94 and lost, against Cavan in ’97 and lost. It wasn’t a classic out there, but we’re through to the next round."
Muldoon smashed home an early goal to set the tone and although Cahill replied in kind, Derry were well clear by 1-8 to 1-2 at the changeover. Geoffrey McGonigle fired in a second-half penalty, Muldoon and Tohill had a couple of points apiece and that was that.
Fermanagh 3-12, Monaghan 1-10
Fermanagh were much too strong for Monaghan in the preliminary round of the Ulster championship at Enniskillen last Sunday despite a difficult spell when Monaghan managed to close the gap to just a point.
With Raymond Gallagher and Shane King in full flow, the winners raced into a 1-4 to no score lead with Stephen Maguire thumping home the goal before Monaghan had woken up. But wake up they did and with Kieran Tavey latching onto a rebound for a goal, it was 1-7 to 1-6 early in the second half.
That, however, was as close as Monaghan came, and further goals by Raymond Johnson and Raymond Gallagher settled the issue. Fermanagh now meet Donegal at Ballybofey on June 11.
Clare 0-15, Waterford 1-7
Clare were hard-pressed to overcome Waterford in the first round of the Munster football championship at Ennis where some deplorable shooting by the winners almost cost them dear. With Clare kicking 20 wides, a second goal by Waterford’s Emmet Doherty would surely have brought about the first shock of the summer.
The highly impressive Doherty had given Waterford the tonic of an early goal and if it hadn’t been for the yeoman work of Martin Daly, Brian McMahon and Donal O’Sullivan, Clare could easily have gone out. The trio held the team together amid a succession of terrible misses before three points in the closing stages spared the favorite’s blushes. Clare have a semifinal date with Tipperary on June 25.
€ Carlow were the first team to be eliminated from the Leinster football championship round robin series when they were beaten 2-11 to 0-10 by Wexford at Dr. Cullen Park last Sunday. Wexford now only require a draw from their final game against Wicklow to secure a meeting with Dublin in the championship proper.
Reduced to 14 men after Willie Quinlan was red-carded for retaliation during the first half, Carlow battled away with Johnny Nevin in impressive form, however, late goals from Jason Lawlor and Jack Berry earned Wexford the result.
After their initial defeat by Wexford, Longford bounced back with a 2-12 to 1-10 win over Wicklow at Pearse Park to keep their Leinster round robin chances alive. Eight points clear at the break, Longford withstood a Wicklow second-half rally with two goals by full forward Niall Sheridan and five well-taken points from Padraic Davis.
€ Dublin’s hurlers notched up a second successive victory in the Leinster round-robin series when they outclassed Westmeath on a scoreline of 1-20 to 0-7 at Cusack Park. Tomas McGrane fired in an all-important early goal and finished top scorer with 1-6. A victory over Laois in the last game of the series will guarantee Dublin a semifinal place against Kilkenny.
€ Predictably enough, hot favorites Tyrone took the All-Ireland under 21 football title at Mullingar last Saturday, 3-12 to 0-13 over Limerick. But Limerick, appearing in a first national football final in living memory were able to feel proud of their contribution. In fact, it was the Munster team’s stubborn refusal to run up the white flag that was most impressive.
Tyrone’s attack was simply in a different class. Richard Thornton bagged two goals and a point, while Mark Harte had four points from play. Equally, a potent halfback line of Joe Campbell, Brian McGuigan and Stephen O’Neill shared a goal and seven points between them.
Trailing only by 1-4 to 0-6 early in the second half, Limerick had a great opportunity to take the lead but Brian Begley’s fierce shot cannoned back off the crossbar and from that moment on, Tyrone were in complete charge.