Gearóid O’Connor shines for Tipperary as they finally shake off dogged Galway

A late penalty put a cap on a brilliant performance by the Tipp wing-forward as Liam Cahill’s side deservedly took the points

NHL Division 1B: Tipperary 1-26 Galway 0-24

Tipperary won this game three times – once each at the start of both halves and then for keeps at the end. Deep into injury-time, Gearóid O’Connor stood over a penalty and looked to the sideline wondering should he take his point or go for a goal. Whatever guidance came, he chose door number two regardless. Nailed it, too.

“It was a two-point game at that stage so the sensible thing to do was go for a point,” smiled Liam Cahill afterwards. “But I think he wanted to do his own thing anyway. He’s in a great vein of form.”

O’Connor had a bonanza afternoon here and did most of the heavy lifting on the way to earning Tipp their five-point win. But this was frequently a bizarre encounter, one in which Cahill’s side were much the better outfit for long stretches and yet still had to sweat through the endgame.

If Galway ultimately headed back west with no points to show for their efforts, they could at least take heart from their refusal to be shaken off. Henry Shefflin’s side were six down after 20 minutes and eight down after 43 – yet they still went into the last five on level terms. It would have been a stolen draw if they’d got anything out of it. You suspect they’d have lived with it.


“We’ve started a lot of games slowly this year to be fair,” Shefflin said afterwards. “That is definitely a concern. Is it something we need to look at? Is it the warm-up? Training during the week or whatever?

“We’ll look at various different things but you have got to get to the pitch of the game because you can’t give up those leads. To be fair to the lads they never gave up and they were really pushing forward. A couple of lapses and that’s what cost us in the end.”

For so long here, Tipp were well on top. They were punchier from the start, spikier in the tackle and deadlier in front of goal. If they maybe overdid the possession play at times, it was still pleasingly intricate when it came off. You could see a pattern to everything they were doing, a plan of attack.

They skated out to a 0-11 to 0-5 lead in the first 20 minutes, stitching some lovely moves through the middle of the pitch and finishing with aplomb. O’Connor continued his outstanding form from the Fitzgibbon campaign, Willie Connors knocked over two from midfield, Alan Tynan and Jake Morris filled their boots as well.

They probably overdid the goal-hunting a little though and it kept Galway in the game. Shefflin’s side gradually got a foothold the further the first half wore on, with Pádraic Mannion and Cianan Fahy stopping all that lovely Tipp pattern-weaving at source.

Tom Monaghan and Conor Cooney found their range in front of the posts, Evan Niland reliably posted his frees. Somehow, Galway had made it to half-time only three points down, 0-16 to 0-13. It felt like an almighty reprieve for such a generally wan first-half showing.

Not that it initially did them a whole lot of good in the second. They came out seemingly just as stuck to the ground, watching on as Tipp substitute Mark Kehoe reeled off the first three points after the restart. O’Connor continued his trojan work by knocking over two on the spin soon after. By the 43rd minute, Tipp led by 0-21 to 0-13. There really shouldn’t have been much more to see.

But Galway dug in. On a day when they weren’t flowing and struggled for any sort of coherence, they figured out a way to stay in touch. Conor Cooney kept a dripping tap of points coming – five in all for the day – and though Niland was having a bit of a nightmare from open play, his production from placed balls never let up.

Bit by bit, Galway reeled the home side in. Gavin Lee landed a huge one on 57 minutes and when Niland iced a smooth free from the sideline soon after, there was only a point in it. The crowd was bubbling now as well and when Conor Bowe finally ended an 18-minute spell without a Tipp point on the hour mark, the roar sounded borrowed from the summer.

But for all their fight, Galway never managed to grab a lead. The sides were level twice inside the closing 10 minutes but it was Tipp who finished strongest. O’Connor capped a brilliant display with the last two points of the game, meaning they were more or less out the gap before the penalty. When he buried it, the scoreline finally looked apt onto the day.

“It’s massive from our point of view,” Cahill said. “You’d like to get to the stage where you kick on in matches and confirm your superiority by going five, six ahead and pushing it further out. But look, the character when Galway came back at us was great. You always love to see that.”

Galway: Darach Fahy; Jack Grealish, TJ Brennan, Shane Cooney; Cianan Fahy (0-1), Pádraic Mannion, Ronan Glennon; Donal O’Shea (0-1), Conor Cooney (0-5); Gavin Lee (0-1), Jason Flynn, John Cooney; Tom Monaghan (0-2), Conor Whelan (0-3), Evan Niland (0-10, 0-9 frees). Subs: Darren Morrissey for Brennan, 24 mins; Seán Linnane (0-1) for Glennon, 35-38 mins (temp); Daithí Burke for Glennon, half-time; Linnane for S Cooney, 45 mins; Jamie Ryan for J Cooney, 52 mins.

Tipperary: Barry Hogan; Craig Morgan (0-1), Ronan Maher, Michael Breen; Bryan O’Mara, Robert Byrne, Conor Bowe (0-2); Willie Connors (0-2), Seamus Kennedy (0-1); Gearóid O’Connor (1-13, 1-0 pen, 0-8 frees, 0-1 65), John McGrath (0-1), Alan Tynan (0-1); Sean Kenneally (0-1), Jake Morris (0-1), Seán Ryan. Subs: Johnny Ryan for O’Mara, 16 mins; Mark Kehoe (0-3) for Morris, 21 mins; Billy Seymour for Kenneally, 52 mins; Darragh Stakelum for Tynan, 60 mins; Patrick Maher for D Stakelum, 64 mins; Conor Stakelum for Ryan, 69 mins.

Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).

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Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times