The Galway senior hurlers produced an impressive and extremely hard working performance all over the field in Semple Stadium last Sunday afternoon to defeat Clare by 2-17 to 0-17, and qualify for an All-Ireland semi-final against Tipperary on August 14 in Croke Park.
Tipp and Galway clashed last year at the same stage of the championship, and between them they produced the best game of the season, with Galway sneaking home on a score-line of 0-26 to 3-16, with substitute Shane Moloney scoring the last point of the day from a classy Joe Canning pass to edge Galway past the winner's post.
Few Galway supporters will forget Seamus Callanan's 3-9 from full-forward in that tie either, and no doubt both managers will give that game a repeat viewing over the coming weeks to see if they can garner any extra bit of insight before the semi-final.
Donoghue's team set-up very well
Galway set up very well last Sunday from the start against the Banner men and team manager Micheal Donoghue and his selectors, Frannie Forde and Noel Larkin's man-marking strategy and positional changes paid dividends all through the contest.
Johnny Coen was relocated to midfield and the Loughrea man did very well in the engine room. His pace, as exemplified by his initial break and lay-off to David Burke for Canning's goal, and overall covering play and high work-rate was very valuable to the team.
Gort's Aidan Harte also performed very well as the free defender and he read the game superbly in that role.
Full-back and Sunday Game man-of-the-match Daithí Burke had a mighty game and Adrian Tuohy also performed his defensive duties impressively with a super hook on Tony Kelly, a big moment in the first half.
Behind them, Colm Callanan made a few good saves, kept a clean sheet and did well with his puck-outs.
Up front, Joe Canning took his goal magnificently and he really worked hard all over the field in a stand-out display.
All the forwards worked hard harrying and closing down the Clare defenders, with Cian Dillon in particular being hounded out of it any time he got possession. He was stripped a few times and never really had an influence on the game, which was a big blow to Davy Fitzgerald's game plan.
Big Conor Cooney took his goal very efficiently, and he will be hoping of having a big role to play in two weeks' time having missed out on last year's game with Tipp.
Canning's goal was huge boost
Galway led by 1-10 to 0-6 at half-time and many of the 31,690-strong crowd had barely settled into watching the second half when Joe Canning had the sliotar nestling in the back of the Clare net after only 11 seconds.
It was a huge score, as it left Clare with a mountain to climb, 10 points behind, and playing a team with genuine belief.
Galway manager Michéal Donoghue knew it was a key moment in the contest.
“It was huge. I suppose we were fortunate to get the wind in the first half, to build up a lead, and Joe's goal then gave us the cushion that we needed. It was inevitable that a Clare onslaught would come but once we chipped in with a few scores I felt we’d be okay. In fairness to Joe, it was a great finish. The angle he took the ball and where he shot from. It was probably hard to conceive of him shooting from there, but a player of his calibre is well capable of scoring from there. We probably needed that to create a platform from then on."
Donoghue dismissed the idea the pressure had been lifted from Galway in light of the victory. Much of that burden, he pointed out, was perceived and placed upon them by those not within the camp.
“A lot of the hype or the necessity to win was generated outside the group. These lads are competing for the last couple of years, it’s not just something happening now. There’s a quality team there and they’re a savage bunch of men. I’m proud to be working with them.”
Having been involved with Tippeary last season, the Clarinbridge man knows very well the challenge his side will face when taking on the Munster champions in two weeks' time.
“Tipp are one of the top teams in the country, they had an emphatic win in the Munster final. That’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge we’ll look forward to meeting in a few weeks.”
Scorers for Galway:
J Canning (1-8, 0-6 frees, 2 65s ); C Cooney (1-0 ); J Cooney, David Burke (0-2 each ); J Coen, P Mannion, C Donnellan, C Mannion, A Harte (0-1 each ).
Galway: C Callanan; Daithí Burke, J Hanbury; A Harte; A Tuohy, P Mannion, G McInerney; J Coen, David Burke (c ); J Flynn, J Canning, C Cooney; C Mannion, J Cooney, C Whelan.
Subs used: C Donnellan for C Cooney (47 ); D Glennon for J Flynn (53 ); F Moore for J Coen (60 ); A Smith for C Whelan (67 ); S Maloney for J Cooney (70+3 ).