Pádraic Maher pictured leading Tipperary through the pre-match parade against Cork.
This week Tipperary and Galway are preparing for an All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final on Sunday, August 6th at Croke Park, Dublin (throw-in 4pm). The climatic nature of this encounter has cranked the anticipation up to a new level of madness and in response to the challenge posed by the Tribesmen manager Michael Ryan has recalled Darren Gleeson and Michael Cahill to his starting team in place of Darragh Mooney and Tomás Hamill respectively while James Barry starts at full-back.
The Tipperary starting fifteen to face Galway is: Darren Gleeson (Portroe), Donagh Maher (Burgess), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Séamus Kennedy (St Mary's Clonmel), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields, captain), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh), Michael Breen (Ballina), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), John O'Dwyer (Killenaule), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch) and John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney).
The Premier County find themselves pitted against the Tribesmen in the last four for the third consecutive year and although Tipperary are the defending All-Ireland champions Galway have been installed as favourites to land the Liam MacCarthy Cup based on their scintillating championship form and their sixteen-point win (3-21 to 0-14) over Tipperary in the Allianz National Hurling League final on April 23rd. So, the question is: can Tipperary turn the tables on Galway?
“They are a formidable side, they really are. Their run through Leinster was very impressive. We have had a very chastening experience of them (Galway) ourselves in 2017. So, as far as I am concerned they are a top team,” Tipperary manager Michael Ryan explained at a press event last week in the Anner Hotel, Thurles.
The Tribesmen, led by manager Micheál Donoghue (and conditioned by former Tipperary coach Lukasz Kirszenstein) beat Dublin (2-28 to 1-17), Offaly (0-33 to 1-11) and Wexford (0-29 to 1-17) during a successful Leinster championship campaign while Tipperary's recent performances against Galway will trouble supporters of the blue and gold.
Tipperary lost the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final to the Tribesmen (3-16 to 0-26), but avenged that defeat in 2016 when seeing off Galway in the last four (2-19 to 2-18). The sides last encountered one another in the 2017 league final when Galway won in resounding fashion. And, a key facet worth noting from all three of those encounters is that Galway out-worked Tipperary in each game.
Galway, of course, will also be nourished by the experience of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final which Micheál Donoghue has every reason to believe was his side’s for the taking. Indeed, only for injuries to Joe Canning and Adrian Tuohy in the first half, Pádraic Maher’s timely hook, a moment of magic from John O’Dwyer and a key tactical switch, which saw John McGrath moved to full-forward, Tipp could well have missed out on the All-Ireland title.
Tipperary's performance against Galway in the league final was worse than poor, but it appears that the mood music around the squad is much healthier now. Clare asked Tipperary a set of significant questions, but Michael Ryan's men answered them in real style.
The performance against Clare was not perfect, but none of the issues associated with the display were down to a poor attitude. Indeed, a massive attitude adjustment appears to have taken place among the Tipperary players and if those same players can bring a similar level of intensity to Sunday's contest then Michael Ryan’s men have a real chance of causing an upset.
“We are coming up against one of the two form teams of 2017. So, it's a fantastic challenge. The pressure is not on us. We do not need to think about results or anything like that - what we need to consider is play by play by play; performance levels - is the support play at the level that allows us to express ourselves and play our game and close down opportunities and take opportunities,” Michael Ryan explained last week.
Since the dramatic qualifier game between the sides in 2014 the sides have met in five competitive games with the respective counties earning two wins apiece (one draw).
Tipperary won the 2014 qualifier 3-25 to 4-13 and in the 2015 league Thurles hosted a bad-tempered affair which Tipperary won 2-18 to 0-20. In the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final Galway avenged the defeat that they suffered at the hands of Tipperary in 2014 when the Tribesmen beat the Premier County 0-26 to 3-16.
The sides could not be separated in the 2016 National League game played at Pearse Stadium (Galway 2-19 Tipperary 1-22) while Tipperary hit two vital goals during the final ten minutes to earn a one-point 2016 All-Ireland semi-final win (2-19 to 2-18) at Croke Park, Dublin.
Outside of the lop-sided 2017 league final there has been little, if anything at all, between the sides. Indeed, the only thing we can guarantee ahead of Sunday is that one side are going to get their hearts ripped out.
Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final (throw-in 4pm) will be preceded by the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship last four clash between Galway and Kilkenny (throw-in 2pm). And, the All-Ireland Under-17 Hurling Championship final between Dublin and Cork takes place at 12 noon.