Galway hurlers taken out by Kilkenny juggernaut
Surrounded: Galway's Niall Donoghue in action in the All Ireland senior hurling final replay at Croke Park on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy
After Mayo were beaten by Donegal in this year's All-Ireland football final, many Galwegians were able and quick to point out that it was Mayo's sixth All-Ireland final defeat since 1989. Six finals, (and one draw), and yet no victory.
Now unfortunately, after last Sunday's heavy and comprehensive All-Ireland hurling final defeat to Kilkenny, (Galway 3-11, Kilkenny 3-22) - we in Galway are not too far behind our near neighbours in losing senior All-Ireland finals.
Galway have played in five senior All-Ireland hurling finals (and one draw) since Conor Hayes hoisted the McCarthy Cup in 1988, and yet no Galway hurling captain has been able to say his "cúpla focal" on the steps of the Hogan Stand.
They are sobering statistics from a maroon perspective.
Even though it was a real tour-de-force by Kilkenny last weekend as they annexed their 34th title, compared to Galway's four titles, it was still a defeat that hurt.
There were not many positives last Sunday. At least the Galway fans, who once again travelled in huge numbers to support their team, can say in years to come that they were in the stadium when one of the greatest hurlers in the history of the game, Henry Shefflin, collected his ninth All-Ireland medal on the field of play.
It is a stunning haul for any player and based on what we observed from him and his teammates last weekend, who would be surprised if that nine were to become 10 ?
A big factor last Sunday was that Kilkenny were much more prepared for what Anthony Cunningham's players were going to do. They were ready and able. They are a very formidable outfit and they had been stung by their display in the drawn game where only the brilliance and leadership of Shefflin saved them.
Galway had struck early for big leads up in the Leinster final and in the drawn All-Ireland final, but Kilkenny were not going to allow that happen for the third time in one season.
Brian Cody's charges were in the zone from the get-go in this tie and they looked much hungrier and more at ease with Galway's game plan.
After only 12 minutes they led by two, 0-3 to 0-1, which was as much as they had managed to score in the opening 30 minutes of their two previous meetings with Galway combined.
The Galway supporters were given a short false dawn - two goals in a minute from David Burke. First up he deflected a long Iarla Tannian delivery, and then he finished a lovely Cyril Donnellan/Damien Hayes combo after a long ball in from Joe Canning.
The Kilkenny response was lethal and ruthless. TJ Reid with a rapid response point. Worse was to follow. Eoin Larkin in on goal, an injured James Skehill parries the shot, Richie Power buries the rebound.
Then Kilkenny went for the jugular. Six points from five different scorers in five blistering minutes - hurling at a level Galway simply could not match.
Larkin. Power. A Shefflin free. Wally Walsh. Shefflin from play. Richie Hogan. Kilkenny at warp speed and Galway were clinging to stay in the game.
Two points from Joe Canning (a free and a 65) gave them his side some hope heading for the dressing room (1-11 to 2-4). At half time everybody acknowledged that Galway were fortunate to be only four points down, but the signs were ominous. They were being out hurled in far too many positions and they had not scored a single point from play .
Five chaotic minutes
Any chance that Galway had of winning a fifth All-Ireland hurling title was blown away in five chaotic minutes.
Firstly, in the 45th minute, Damien Hayes won a ball on the 20m line, was fouled, whistle blown by referee James McGrath. Play continued. Hayes passed to Cyril Donnellan who ‘goaled’ — called back for the free which was duly pointed by Joe Canning.
A minute later a pointed Canning sideline special and to huge roars from the packed stands Galway were now within a goal, 1-13 to 2-7. Just another two minutes on and it looked like they had that goal, a JC rocket cannoning back off the butt of the upright, David Herity beaten all ends up — the ball was cleared, Shefflin won possession and showing great strength and vision, parted to Cillian Buckley who pointed for Kilkenny.
That was not the end of the bad news for Galway, however. In the very next attack Cyril Donnellan was spotted by linesman Barry Kelly striking JJ Delaney with a backhand hurley swing — straight red card..
Down to 14 men, Galway’s cause was hopeless.
The management team and the supporters watched helplessly as Kilkenny pulled the team apart, out-scoring them by 2-7 to 0-1 in the 15 minutes to the 62nd. A terrific goal by Johnny Glynn and a few late points by Joe Canning helped to take the bad look off the score-line, but it was Kilkenny who coasted home, to an 11-point victory.
Considering they had taken off many of their star men by the finish, including young Walter Walsh, who had 1-3 on the board from play, their strength in depth was glaring. And ominous. No one could deny Kilkenny are brilliant champions. Yet again.