Sunday, Croke Park, 1.30pm, (Ref: Tony Carroll, Offaly)
Latest from the medics and management…Tom Fox and Kevin Slattery come into the Tipperary team in place of Dylan Fitzelle and Sean Ryan respectively
TIPPERARY: Paul Maher (Moyne-Templetuohy); Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Michael Breen (Ballina), Jack Peters (Kilruane McDonagh’s); Tom Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), Thomas Hamill (Killea), Barry Heffernan (Éire Óg Nenagh); Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney); Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan), Jack Shelly (Mullinahone), Steven O’Brien (Ballina); Stephen Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Kevin Slattery (Gortnahoe-Glengoole), Mark McCarthy (Toomevara).
The Galway team features two changes to the starting fifteen from the quarter-final. In comes Eanna Burke to defence in replace of fellow clubmate Shane Cooney, while Ballindereen’s Sean Collins enters the fray at midfield, with Brian Murtagh pushing forward with Liam Mellow’s Adrian Morrissey being the player to lose out.
GALWAY: Mike O’Conghaile (Michael Breathnachs), Daragh O’Donoghue (Kilnadeema-Leitrim), Paul Killeen (Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry), Eanna Burke (St Thomas); Shane Caulfield (Kilconieron), Sean Sweeney (Loughrea), Barry Keane (Clarinbridge); Sean Collins (Ballindereen), Cathal Mannion (Ahascragh-Fohenagh); Brian Murtagh (Ardrahan), Daragh Dolan (Cappataggle), Jason Flynn (Tommie Larkins); Ronan O’Meara (Portumna), Michael Mullins (Gort), Brian Molloy (Kilnadeema-Leitrim).
Checking the odds…Tipperary are 10/11 favorites while Galway are valued at evens with a draw priced at 10/1. The handicap betting has Tipperary (-1) at 5/4.
Clues from the form guide…Galway’s form can only be properly appraised on their outing against Wexford but they looked extremely impressive in that match, particularly in the amount that they chalked up on the scoreboard. Manager Mattie Murphy has demonstrated consistently in recent years as well, that he is able to time his side’s run for the finish line successfully in the minor grade. In addition Paul Killeen, Sean Sweeney and Jason Flynn all have the experience of lining out in last year’s final triumph against Dublin while Darragh Dolan came on as a substitute during that clash.
Tipperary learnt little from their 6-21 to 0-11 thrashing of Kerry in the opening round of the Munster championship in Semple Stadium but they showed their scoring capabilities again in their provincial semi-final against Waterford when they won 2-25 to 0-12. And they proved they can mix it both ways when surviving a second-half onslaught in the provincial final with Clare before prevailing by four points.
The game breakers are…Posting a total of 4-20 against Wexford provided evidence of the scoring threat that exists in the Galway attack. Their starting sextet contributed 4-17 of that tally with wing-forwards Adrian Morrissey and Jason Flynn capable of influencing games greatly while corner-forward Ronan O’Meara is another excellent prospect. At the back Paul Killeen was outstanding at the edge of the square in helping guide them to the All-Ireland tittle last year while centre-back Sean Sweeney is a very impressive player as well.
Tipperary have plenty qualities themselves with a defence where Nenagh CBS All-Ireland colleges winner Jack Peters has impressed along with Thomas Hamill. Bill Maher at midfield is a wonderful hurler who has also been to the fore for the Tipperary minor footballers this season. Their attack tomorrow carries great scoring threats in John McGrath, Jack Shelly and Mark McCarthy.
Gazing into the crystal ball…Tipperary are bidding to reach their first final in this grade since 2007 and have certainly displayed tremendous form to date in their Munster campaign. Yet Galway are specialists at this level with Mattie Murphy an experienced operator on the sideline and with some key players surviving from last year’s title triumph, coupled with a strong attack, they have the capacity to triumph.