Path to the final

The Galway Senior Panel

The Galway Senior Panel

In what has been described by many observers as the greatest hurling championship in living memory, the Galway Advertiser takes a look back on how Micheál Donoghue secured their place in this Sunday's decider.

Offaly 2-15 5-18 Galway

Bord na Mona O'Connor Park, May 12.

The campaign commenced with Galway travelling to Tullamore for the opening round of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship in May.

The All-Ireland champions were expected to make light work of the Faithful County after cantering to a 2-19 to 0-14 victory over their opponents in the league earlier in the year and that is what transpired as Micheál Donoghue's men found the back of the net five times.

Brian Concannon was the stand out performer on his Championship debut, finding the back of the net twice as well as raising the white flag. Joseph Cooney, Conor Whelan, and Jason Flynn also helped themselves to three pointers, with Joe Canning top scoring with 0-8.

Galway ran out comfortable winners by 12 points and like 2017, the Championship campaign was up and running with a Tullamore success.

Galway 1-22 2-11 Kilkenny

Pearse Stadium, May 27

For many observers, this was when Galway's Championship really began as they searched for a first win in six years over Brian Cody's Kilkenny.

And the Tribesmen did not disappoint as they secured an eight point victory limiting the Cats to only two points from play.

If Galway's defence was rock solid, then it was the Joe show up front as Joe Canning proved why he is one of the best forwards in the country hitting 1-12. Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion, David Burke, Brian Concannon, and Jason Flynn chipped in with scores of their own as Galway lived up to their billing as All-Ireland champions.

Wexford 0-17 1-23 Galway

Innovate Wexford Park, June 2

A week later Galway made the long journey towards the sunny southeast to face the Leinster final runners-up from 2017, Wexford.

The tie was expected to be a banana skin for Donoghue's charges after Wexford had knocked them out at the same venue in the quarter-finals of the National League. But any thoughts that Galway might be doubting themselves in this contest were dismissed after less than two minutes when Conor Whelan shocked the home team with a goal.

Canning again was on red hot form as he racked 12 points before going off injured in the last minute. Wexford in truth never really got close to Galway as a four point gap in the first 35 was the closest they got to Galway's coat tails.

The victory secured Galway's place in the Leinster decider with a game to spare.

Galway 0-26 2-19 Dublin

Pearse Stadium, June 9

It was a match that should never have ended as close as it did, but only for late points from captain David Burke and Jason Flynn, Galway would have lost their unbeaten Championship run.

With Dublin already eliminated and Galway assured of a place in the final, it was expected to be another formality for Donoghue's men, and that was the way it looked after a strong first half resulted in a seven point lead for the Tribesmen at halftime. However, the visitors burst into life in the second 35 and two goals from Dublin substitute Paul Winters turned the tie on its head and swifted the momentum to the men from the capital.

Galway found themselves in a dog fight and when Rian McBride landed a long range point with six minutes left, it looked like Galway has shot their bolt. However, frees from Burke and Flynn rescued the All-Ireland champions and maintained their 100 per cent Championship record heading into the Leinster final where they would face off against Kilkenny.

Galway 0-18 0-18 Kilkenny

Croke Park, July 1

Having reached their seventh Leinster final in 10 seasons, Donoghue's were looking to become the first Galway team to retain their title after their victorious previous year. It was the fifth time Galway and Kilkenny had met in the provincial decider with Kilkenny holding the upper hand with three wins on the four previous occasions. Galway's sole success came back in 2012 when Fergal Moore became the first man outside the province of Leinster to lift the Bob O'Keeffe Cup.

Galway went into the final as favourites after defeating Kilkenny in the round robin phase but this was to prove a lot tighter affair than what had played out in Salthill a month before.

The match failed to spark until the dying minutes in what was a hard fought tussle between the reigning All Ireland and National League champions.

It looked like the Tribesmen had done enough when Joseph Cooney bisected the posts to put his side up by three in the 68th minute. However, Brian Cody's men have a reputation of never being beaten until the final whistle, and scores from John Donnelly, Enda Morrissey, and TJ Reid, his 10th of the day, resulted in a stalemate and replay to be played the next week.

Galway 1-28 3-15 Kilkenny

Semple Stadium, July 8

If the first clash was a damp squib, then the replay was the match of which everyone had dreamed. The game already was making history as it was the first Leinster hurling final held outside of the province and the game that followed will go down as one of the best seen in a provincial decider.

Defences dominated the day in Croke Park, but it was a straight shootout in the home of hurling as Galway and Kilkenny went hammer and tong for the full 70 minutes. Joe Canning (0-10 ) and Cathal Mannion (0-6 ) were stand out performers for Galway as they secured their third Leinster title in 10 seasons.

The Tribesmen's victory was built on an explosive start which saw them up by 11 points after 19 minutes and they went into the break with a lead of 1-16 to 1-7 at the break. But Kilkenny once again showed why they have a reputation for Lazarus like comebacks as Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan raised the green flag reducing the score to the minimum.

However, where Galway teams in the past would have crumpled under the Kilkenny charge, this crew managed to regain their composure and Canning and Mannion picked off scores to enable Galway to run winners by seven points and see a Connacht team lift the Leinster title in a Munster venue.

Galway 1-30 1-30 Clare

Croke Park, July 28

It was considered by some as the greatest game of hurling they had ever seen until Limerick and Cork, somehow, proceeded to serve up something even better the following day.

Again Galway were seen as favourites against the Munster runners-up, and as seen in so many of their Championship matches to date, Galway came out of the dressing room playing like men possessed. They found themselves 1-6 to 0-1 up after 15 minutes after Conor Cooney found the back of the net. Joe Canning then tagged on another point and it looked like Galway fans could be preparing themselves for the ticket scramble for the All-Ireland final. However Clare had been dogged in this Championship and finally awoke from their slumber to narrow the gap at halftime to four.

The second half was thrilling as Clare managed claw their way back to parity. With time ticking down, however, it looked like Clare had run out of steam as David Burke's monster point in the 66th minute opened up a three point advantage. But the Banner refused to wilt and managed to send the tie into extra-time thanks to a nerveless free from the imperious Peter Duggan on 72 minutes.

For players, management, and supporters, 20 more minutes was something to be endured. For the neutral, it was to be enjoyed as both sides went at it fully loaded once again. Aron Shanagher's goal in the second period extra time, put Clare ahead for the first time in the contest, before Jason Flynn levelled it up quickly with a nicely taken point.

With four minutes to go and Clare two points in the lead, Flynn stepped up with a brace of points to equal the scores again. Johnny Coen then split the uprights to seemingly send the Tribesmen through to their fourth All-Ireland final in seven years but Jason McCarthy levelled it at the death to send us to another replay.

Galway 1-17 2-13 Clare

Semple Stadium, August 5

Another replay, another day in Thurles. The All-Ireland semi-final was moved to the home of hurling as Dublin contested their dead rubber with Roscommon in the Super 8s.

True to form Galway exploded out of the racing into a seven point lead. Tony Kelly grabbed one back for the Munster side before Jonathan Glynn, using only one hand, superbly smashed the ball past Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy to give Galway a nine point lead. That goal was to be the last score for Galway for 18 minutes in the contest, and that period allowed Clare to slowly but surely edged their way back into the contest.

Goals from Shane O'Donnell and Peter Duggan brought the scores to within a point and swung all momentum towards the Banner. And with two minutes left the crucial moment in the game came as sub Aron Shanagher bore down on goal. The Clare forward saw his effort brilliantly blocked by James Skehill but the rebound fell kindly for Shanagher and with gaping goal in front of him, he incomprehensibly hit the post and Galway managed to scramble the sliotar clear.

Both teams swapped scores but time ran out on Clare and Galway had secured their place once again in All-Ireland final where they would meet Limerick for the first time since 1980.

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