There has been a lot of talk over the past few days about how Laois put it right up to Galway in O’Moore Park last Sunday before Anthony Cunningham’s men finally advanced by 2-17 to 1-13 to the Leinster final.
Nonetheless, the bottom line is that the hurlers did the job they had to do.
They had to win last weekend to get to the next round. They did so. Learn from it and move on to the next task.
Now Galway will face either Kilkenny or Dublin in the provincial final on July 7 at Croke Park. Those two will face each other this Sunday and it will provide an excellent opportunity for the Galway management team and panel to observe and assess what they will need to produce in three weeks’ time to down either Brian Cody or Anthony Daly’s men.
Last Sunday was an awkward championship opener for Galway. It is never easy playing a team you are expected to beat by double figures or more.
Selector Tom Helebert put it perfectly after the game: “These are never comfortable games because there is no right answer to the outcome. If you win by a mile, it was meant to be, and if you get beaten or are sluggish, there are obvious question marks then.”
This game was in the balance until the last seven or eight minutes when an Aonghus Callanan goal put some daylight between the sides. Then Laois sagged a bit and a few more Galway points put a gloss on the scoreboard.
While it does raise some genuine questions, another way and, perhaps a better way to look at it, is that Laois did Galway a massive favour by being so competitive.
The last thing Galway needed or wanted was a 12 or 14-point win that might have hidden some of the issues that will need to be ironed out over the next few weeks.
The home side played with a strong wind in the first half and quickly went into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead. Galway gradually settled down and got back into the tie – mainly through Joe Canning – nevertheless it was the home supporters who were on their feet at half time as Seamus Plunkett’s team went in leading by a point, 0-8 to 0-7.
The massive underdogs kept their work-rate really high and maintained their defensive plan as they hit the front when Tommy Fitzgerald goaled in the 57th minute.
Decisively, though, Davy Glennon responded in kind within 60 seconds after Joe Canning made the opportunity with some great leadership and a powerful run.
Canning stretched the margin to three, but Laois came back with points from the splendid Matthew Whelan and Zane Keenan to leave just one between them again.
However substitute Aonghus Callanan won an aerial battle and made good ground before unleashing a powerful shot with six minutes left of normal time to finally end the brave Laois resistance.
A concern for Galway, but one they have faced before, is their over-dependence on Joe Canning for key scores.
The Portumna man scored Galway’s first five points, including four in a row, created the goal for Davey Glennon, and hit 0-11 (7fs ).
Unless three or four more forwards really step up to the plate, as they did last year in the Leinster final, it is hard to see Fergal Moore hoisting the silverware on July 7.
Galway hit 2-21 in last year’s Leinster final against Kilkenny, and they had big scoring contributions from Cyril Donnellan, who hit 0-5, and David Burke with 1-2.
Assuming Kilkenny win next Sunday, Galway will be rank outsiders for the Leinster final once again, which is not a bad place to be.
Scorers: Galway: J Canning 0-11(7fs ); D Glennon, A Callanan 1-0 each; D Burke, D Hayes 0-2 each; N Burke, J Regan 0-1
Galway: J Skehill; F Moore, K Hynes, S Kavanagh; A Harte, J Coen, J Cooney; I Tannian, A Smith; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; D Glennon, C Cooney, J Canning. Subs used: D Hayes for Donnellan (29 ); J Regan for Smith (ht ); A Callanan for N Burke (53 ); J Grealish for D Burke (67 ).
Laois: E Reilly; B Stapleton, D Maher, JA Delaney; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, G Burke; B Dunne, J Walsh; W Hyland, Z Keenan, S Maher; J Brophy, T Fitzgerald, C Healy. Subs used: B Duggan for Whelan (29 ); C Dunne for Burke (46 ); N Foyle for Brophy (49 ).