Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody, watched intently from the stands no doubt storing away information which might come to bear later this summer when his team attempt to realise its ambition of three All Ireland titles in succession.
Cody will have noticed that for a side so usually dependent on the scoring talents of Eoin Kelly, Tipp managed 2-8 from play during the second half without Kelly ever raising a flag. And he will have seen the way Galway dominated the first half without translating that superiority to the scoreboard.
Not just because they lost, Galway will be by far the more disappointed of the two protagonists. Their defense creaked, and their star-studded attack was never quite on song – clearly there is plenty of remedial work ahead for Ger Loughnane.
“There are five or six positions to sort out in the next 10 weeks to be real challengers in these big games,” said the Galway boss. “Still, the great thing was that there was no loss of heart. I felt it was a real high-class game. It was disappointing to lose but it’s better to lose in April than later on.”
Playing with the breeze in the opening period, Galway failed to take advantage and trailed by 1-9 to 1-8 at the changeover. Their goalkeeper, James Skehill, positioned himself to clear a speculative shot from Benny Dunne, but he misjudged the bounce of the sliotar, and Tipp were gifted a soft goal. Galway replied when Joe Canning paved the way for Fergal Healy to scramble the ball home, but the signs for the second half were ominous.
While John Lee stood out in the half-back line and while Damien Hayes was a constant threat from the wing, Galway were soon under pressure as Lar Corbett, Seamus Butler and Willie Ryan took over the scoring duties from Kelly who had earlier hit 0-7 including five frees.
Ryan tore through for his side’s second goal, however, Galway once again responded in kind with Hayes creating the chance for sub Aongus Callanan. That goal was quickly followed by Tipp surge that effectively settled the contest as Corbett infiltrated the Galway defense for a third goal and three points were added to push the lead out to seven.
“That gave us a bit of breathing space, that gap was the turning point,” said Tipp manager, Liam Sheedy. “It was a funny game, with periods of dominance for both teams. We had some guys who didn’t burn in the first half, and who then took off in the second half. We’re under no illusions, but we have a bit of resolve now.”
To their credit, Galway put in a tremendous closing 10 minutes as they sought to send the game into extra time thanks especially to a superb Joe Canning goal, but one point was as close as they came before Butler, appropriately enough, had the final say with the last score.
On the back of victories over Kilkenny, Waterford, Limerick and now Galway in the campaign, Tipp can justifiably look forward to their Munster semi-final showdown with Cork in June.
Meanwhile, Westmeath took the Division Two title with a fully-deserved 2-12 to 0-12 win over Carlow at the Gaelic Grounds. With Brendan Murtagh contributing 0-7 including three frees, Westmeath took the game to Carlow who had been previously undefeated and goals by John Shaw and Derek McNicholas sealed the result.