/ GAA

Galway 3-16 Tipperary 3-18

Updated: Sunday, 20 Apr 2008 21:27

Willie Ryan rifles home a goal for Tipperary this afternoon Ryan celebrates his goal at the Gaelic Grounds Fergal Healy hit the back of the net for Glaway in the first half Liam Sheedy celebrates Tipp's success with his daughter
Willie Ryan rifles home a goal for Tipperary this afternoon Ryan celebrates his goal at the Gaelic Grounds Fergal Healy hit the back of the net for Glaway in the first half Liam Sheedy celebrates Tipp's success with his daughter

Tipperary were crowned NHL Division 1 champions for the 19th time after edging Galway in this afternoon's hotly contested final at the Gaelic Grounds.

An injury-time point from Seamus Butler topped off Tipp's first league success since 2001 and brought their unbeaten run in 2008 to ten wins and two draws.

Benny Dunne, who caught out Galway goalkeeper James Skehill, and Fergal Healy swapped goals as Tipp led 1-09 to 1-08 at half-time.

Willie Ryan and Aonghus Callinan also netted before Lar Corbett's blistering 60th-minute strike put Tipp in control.

A Joe Canning goal, boosting the teenager's final tally to 1-06, inspired a late Galway revival, but Tipp held them in check to finish off a very rewarding league campaign for Liam Sheedy's men.

Meeting in a league final for the first time since 2000, both Tipp and Galway had come to the boil in recent weeks with the Premier County notably dethroning last year's winners Waterford and Kilkenny, the All-Ireland champions.

Ger Loughnane's Galway side put in one of the best 35 minutes of the season against Cork in last weekend's semi-final and they came into the decider with some real scoring potential at their disposal, including the 19-year-old Canning.

The lightning quick Damien Hayes underlined this threat by firing over Galway's opening two points, the first an excellent effort from wide out on the left.

Tipp, who brought Willie Ryan in for Tommy Fitzgerald in their attack, drew level at 0-02 apiece in the eighth minute when Eoin Kelly, their newly installed captain, picked off a magnificent point from near the sideline.

Neither side was able to stamp its authority on the game as the action swung from end to end. A Kelly free nudged the Munster men in front before Kevin Hynes lashed over a point from Galway's midfield.

Loughnane's side then opened up a little gap with two superb points - Richie Murray sent over an inspirational score from 95 yards out and goalkeeper Skehill also found the target from distance.

Despite conceding a pointed free from Kelly, Galway kept hold of their two-point buffer with Hayes raising another white flag.

The skill and attacking craft was of the highest order, with Kelly and Hayes clearly revelling in the high stakes of the game.

Mullinahone man Kelly was in dead-eye form as he launched over a quick brace of points, sandwiching Hayes' fourth point from play.

Seamus Butler was the next Tipp player to score as he bounded forward with real intent. Goal chances were scarce but the deadlock was broken in the 33rd minute when Skehill misjudged a tame shot from Dunne.

The Galway 'keeper failed to control the sliotar as Dunne's effort bounced in front of him and to his horror, the ball carried on over the line for Tipp's first goal.

Kelly then notched a free to take his tally to 0-07 and Sheedy's men were 1-08 to 0-08 ahead.

There was still time in the first half for Galway to notch their first goal of the game.

Into injury-time, Canning made a nuisance of himself and with the Tipp defence stretched, Fergal Healy was on hand to scramble home to the net.

But Corbett, lively as ever, latched onto the ball and swung over the final point of the half to see Tipp go in at the break with a 1-09 to 1-08 advantage.

An off-colour Ger Farragher was replaced at half-time and Galway, who had brought on Alan Kerins and David Forde, were now reliant on Canning from placed balls.

He replied to an early Corbett point as the second half began at break-neck speed. Then came Tipperary's second goal with Willie Ryan the scorer.

Corbett flicked a high ball into his path and Ryan let rip with a powerful shot that gave Skehill little chance.

Four points behind, the Tribesmen's response was immediate. Damien Hayes drew the attention of a couple of Tipp defenders and he was able to squeeze the ball through for lurking substitute Callinan to bulge the net, although there were calls for a square ball.

At the midpoint of the half, Tipp were still one point to the good - leading by 2-11 to 2-10 - as Brendan Cummins' block of a Hayes shot was quickly followed by a Shane McGrath point at the other end.

Canning found his range again with a free, bringing the sides level, but Tipp replied with two excellent points from Butler, who was proving to be a handful.

A lightning dash from Hayes through the middle of the Tipp defence almost saw him link up with Callinan again. Had Hayes' pass stuck, Tipp 'keeper Cummins would have been called into action.

Just seconds later, that missed opportunity really gnawed away at Galway as Tipp broke through for their third goal.

Corbett streaked away from the Galway rearguard, after fetching a loose ball, and Skehill stood little chance as the Tipperary number 14 cracked home from close range.

Corbett dinked over a point in the next attack and Willie Ryan then thumped over a stunning point from out on the left for a 3-15 to 2-12 scoreline.

Tipp seemed to be coasting to victory as Butler sent over his fourth point, putting a full seven points between the sides.

Galway were not finished, however, and a brilliant goal from Canning got them back on their feet.

The Portumna youngster shrugged off three defenders, dangling the sliotar on his hurl as he burst through and just at the right moment, he unleashed a fierce drive that flew past Cummins and his last defender.

Canning was then successful with a right-sided free, making it 3-16 to 3-13, only for Butler to respond.

With three minutes of normal time remaining, Kevin Hynes closed the gap again to three points, Canning added another free and then Hynes nabbed another opportunistic score as Tipp's lead was whittled down to a single point.

It was a thrilling finish to an entertaining tussle, but Tipp's strength around midfield and at centre-back helped them close out the win with Butler's sixth point the ideal clincher.

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