NHL: Tipp win Division One crown

20 April 2008

Tipperary’s Paul Ormond and Eoin Kelly raise the NHL Division 1 trophy
Tipperary have captured the national hurling league title with a stunning 3-18 to 3-16 victory over Galway in an epic decider at Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds.

Both sides produced some fantastic hurling but ultimate the scoring power of Eoin Kelly, Seamus Butler and Lar Corbett swung the verdict in favour of Liam Sheedy’s team.

The Premier County withstood a late Galway rally to win the league for the 19th time.

Damien Hayes fired Galway ahead in the first minute but captain Kelly levelled from a free after a foul on Corbett. But Hayes was having none of it and he immediately restored the Galway lead with a third-minute strike from play.

Between them, Kelly and Corbett squandered a good opportunity when they over-elaborated in front of the posts but corner forward Kelly then landed a brace - including one from play - to give Tipp a 0-3 to 0-2 lead after ten minutes.

Midfielder Kevin Hynes levelled it with a sweet strike from out the pitch and Richie Murray quickly added the Tribesmen’s fourth score - 0-4 to 0-3 after twelve minutes.

Goalkeeper James Skehill registered Galway’s third successive point from a booming free before Kelly converted a free for his - and the Premier County’s - fourth point. With quarter of the match played, Galway led by 0-5 to 0-4.

Hayes - an early candidate for Man of the Match - had his third point after Skehill, who was also pushing for the best-player accolade, stopped James Woodlock’s strike from going over the bar.

Kelly demonstrated his undoubted class with a magnificent point for Tipp, who trailed by 0-6 to 0-5 after 20 minutes. Ger Farragher pointed a free before Kelly - his sixth - and Hayes - his fourth - exchanged scores.

Seamus Butler pointed for the Premier County and Skehill scuppered his earier great work when he inexplicably ran past Benny Dunne’s harmless-looking delivery and allowed the sliothar to bounce to the back of the net for the lead goal, 1-7 to 0-8 after 33 minutes.

Kelly stretched the gap but Galway levelled with an injury-time Fergal Healy goal after great Joe Canning persistence before Corbett closed the first-half scoring with a late point: 1-9 to 1-8 to Tipp at half time.

Kelly and Corbett combined again for the latter to point and extend the gap before Canning popped over a Galway free. In the third minute of the second half, Willie Ryan repaid his manager’s faith in him when he danced through an exposed Galway defence to place the ball calmly to the top right corner of the net: 2-10 to 1-9.

Galway were level with a goal from substitute Callinan (after great set-up play from Hayes) and a Canning point. Midfielder Shane McGrath restored Tipp’s lead and Kelly was incensed when an umpire waved his 50th-minute free wide.

A minute later, Canning’s third point had the sides level again, 2-11 each. Butler landed a brace and Canning replied to leave a point between the teams, 2-13 to 2-12, with 13 minutes left.

The match swung in Tipperary’s favour in the 60th minute when Corbett broke clear to lash to the Galway net seconds after Hayes had almost placed Callinan for a repeat of his goal at the other end. When the Munster county followed up with points from Kelly, Ryan and Butler, the game was all but over: 3-16 to 2-12 with seven minutes to play.

Cue a dramatic Galway fightback that almost picked Tipp’s pocket. Canning brought his tally to 1-4 with a super goal and then added a point from a free to reduce the gap suddenly to a manageable three points, 3-16 to 3-13.

But the brilliant Butler got another point before Sarsfields’ clubman Hynes closed the gap back to three with 32 minutes played. Canning added another free from in front of the posts - 3-17 to 3-15 with a minute of normal time to go plus two minutes of added time.

Hynes pointed a minute into injury time after both Hayes and substitute Alan Kerins were thwarted by desperate Tipp defending. As extra time beckoned, Butler steadied Tipp with a late insurance point and his team held on for an incredible win.