Sunday afternoon was a very special day for Anthony Cunningham, Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny’s vibrant panel of hurlers and for Galway hurling.
Not only did Galway win the county’s first Leinster hurling title, the team also produced a dazzling first-half performance to buckle the off-colour Kilkenny juggernaut that was meant to roll over them with ease en-route to another provincial title.
Galway ripped up the form book and came home on a score-line of 2-21 to 2-11. It was a remarkable performance and one that took most people by total surprise.
What odds would anyone have received on Sunday morning for Galway to lead by 14 points at half-time? Or for Galway to win the Leinster final by 10 points?
Even the most hardened bookie would have felt sorry for you as he took your betting slips if you had rocked up with those dockets.
And yet that is what came to pass. In the Leinster final of 2012 Galway led by 2-12 to 0-4 against the mighty Cats at half time, and went on to win by double digits.
Tactically the Galway management team won the joust hands down. Damien Hayes played his roving role around the middle third to perfection. His redeployment as a third midfielder seemed to take Kilkenny by surprise and by the time Brian Cody realigned his team to counteract, Galway were in a great position and playing with terrific passion and composure.
Superb start by Galway
Joe Canning’s well taken early goal, allied to Niall Burke’s two points, saw Galway lead by five points after only four minutes. It was the start they needed and they never looked back after that whirlwind opening.
Their relentless running and high tempo game left Kilkenny totally rattled.
Was there was a little bit of complacency in the Kilkenny psyche? They looked like a team that were not expecting Galway to tear into them with such gusto and heart.
Having won the last few Leinster titles in a canter and having defeated Galway by 3-26 to 0-10 in Nowlan Park last April, did they take Galway a bit for granted?
It was a perfect storm for Galway. Kilkenny were off the pace a bit, and were missing a few key players and Galway were totally up for it - a young team in the main, with a few older experienced heads to lead the way.
Galway had the perfect combination of youth and experience to take the fight to a team that have been the benchmark for excellence for the past decade.
There was only one team in it last Sunday from the get-go. And once Galway were winning all the little wars from the outset, their momentum grew. When David Burke crashed home a fabulous goal after 23 minutes, it was hard to see how they were going to be caught.
They had some magnificent performers in the likes of Joe Canning who hit 1-10 (1-3 from play ) and who displayed a ferocious workrate all through the contest, Damien Hayes, Cyril Donnellan, who shot five points from play, David Collins, Johnny Coen, Andy Smith, David Burke, Niall Donohue, and team captain Fergal Moore. Tony Óg Regan worked his socks off too and held the middle well, but he will be annoyed with two costly errors in the second half.
Overall it was a tremendous team performance and it was great to see four subs used - Jonathan Glynn, James Regan, Tadhg Haran and Joseph Cooney will have great satisfaction from their cameo roles.