Joe Canning is the late hero as Galway edge thriller
If the race to the Sam Maguire Cup is proving utterly absorbing, then the level of interest and intrigue in the destination of the All-Ireland hurling title has reached unprecedented heights sparked by Galway's ferocious honours charge.
The Tribesmen have won the Walsh Cup, Allianz League crown and the Leinster Senior Championship title to date this year and yesterday they turned in a super-charged performance to just pip reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary in a spectacular semi-final shoot-out at a captivated Croke Park.
In a match of compelling intensity and high drama, Joe Canning proved Galway's hero by firing over his 11th point late in the game to seal a memorable 0-22 to 1-18 victory.
Galway are now through to their third All-Ireland final in six years and will face Cork or Waterford on September 3.
Tipperary made a real game of it and can consider themselves unfortunate not to have at least got another day out at Headquarters, although they will not quibble with the quality of Canning's winner.
This was the third successive year that these two great teams collided at the penultimate stage and for the third time the final whistle sounded with just one point between them.
Yesterday, the teams were level on no fewer than 13 occasions in an incredible contest.
John McGrath's 23rd-minute goal saw the reigning champions lead by 1-10 to 0-12 but the match was to take a series of twists and turns before the sides were deadlocked at 0-16 to 1-13 entering the last quarter.
If Canning was in irresistible form for the men from the west, then Tipperary had their quota of marksmen who ensured that they remained right on the opposition's shoulder throughout.
Yet Seamus Callanan, normally a free-scoring force, was restricted to just two points from play on this occasion although he landed three others from frees in a typically robust performance.
And the Maher connection, Brendan and Padraic, were not found wanting either in terms of work rate or putting the sliothair between the posts.
The Tipperary defence did their best to contain Canning but their tendency to concede frees was to prove costly in the final analysis with distance or angle proving no trouble to the man of the match.
The imperious Canning, indeed, traded points with John O'Dwyer as the sides were level for the 12th time with four minutes remaining in an epic battle.
Brendan Maher's nerveless 73rd-minute free from the centre of the field seemed to have earned champions Tipperary a replay that their overall efforts might well have deserved.
But the supremely accurate Canning had other ideas, snatching the winner in the most dramatic fashion to send the Galway fans wild.
Galway manager Michael Donoghue was not surprisingly left breathless at the finish but hailed his team's overall performance.
"We knew it would take a huge effort to get past Tipperary who are a great side but you would have to say that Joe Canning was exceptional," beamed Donoghue.
"Now it's on to the final and we will see who we will be meeting. It is certainly going to be tough no matter who it is but we will certainly be up for the challenge, just as we have been for those we have already met this year to date."
Galway: C Callanan; A Tuohy, Daithi Burke, J Hanbury; P Mannion (0-1f), G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen (0-2), David Burke; C Mannion (0-1), J Canning (0-11, 6f, 1sl, 1'65), J Cooney (0-1); C Whelan (0-4), N Burke, C Cooney (0-2). Subs: J Flynn for N Burke, J Glynn for C Mannion, S Moloney for C Cooney, G Lally for G McInerney.
Tipperary: D Gleeson; D Maher, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy (0-1), R Maher, Padraic Maher (0-2); B Maher (0-3, 2f), M Breen; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, N McGrath (0-2); J O'Dwyer (0-3), S Callanan (0-5, 3f), J McGrath (1-1). Subs: J Forde (0-1) for M Breen, N O'Meara for J Forde.