Galway back in big timeAugust 14, 2012 - 8:26am
WELL, that went pretty well. No extravagance; no calamity.
There was nothing spectacular about it – no spectacular scoring spree, like the 5-18 tally in the thrilling 2005 semi-final against Kilkenny; no spectacular second-half surrender like last season’s inexplicable collapse against Waterford in the quarter-final.
It was fairly run-of-the mill stuff from Galway, pretty ordinary, in fact, as Anthony Cunningham’s charges booked their place in an All-Ireland senior hurling final for the first time in seven years, with a worthy five points win over Cork, with as close to minimum fuss as you could ask for.
Which, if you think about it and the manner in which previous teams wearing maroon and white have raised expectations, flattered to deceive in early summer – or even the 2001 and 2005 semi-final wins where expectancy in the county went through the roof – only to unceremoniously crash in the white heat of battle, it was spectacular in its own right.
It is that ordinariness that made this 0-22 to 0-17 result, and the performance, all the more extraordinary.
We’ve become accustomed to Galway senior hurling sides buckling under the weight of expectation; buckling under the pressure and strain of more battle-hardened opponents whose mental strength, possibly more so than ability, carried them over the line.
On Sunday, at Croke Park, hotly-fancied Galway were expected to win, and they did it. That in itself is remarkable given how hype has weighed heavily on maroon shoulders in recent years; and is testament to the renewed belief and mental toughness that the new management trio has instilled in this relatively young and developing Galway outfit.
It certainly wasn’t as pretty as the Leinster Final romp against Kilkenny but in many ways it was more satisfying. And, regardless of what happens between Tipperary and Kilkenny in the other semi-final this Sunday, Galway will slip into the decider next month as outsiders.
It was a cagey, tactical, edgy affair – the kind of tight match that you’d usually expect Galway to lose, or at the very least, one in which you certainly couldn’t trust them to win.
For the first time during this championship campaign, captain Fergal Moore and Co, went in at the break without a commanding lead. The sides were level at half-time, 11 points apiece, after the underdogs, Cork, ripped into the Tribesmen with a vigour you’d expect from a side plotting an ambush.
And for the first time in four championship outings in 2012, Galway weren’t out of sight and were still well within touching distance of their opponents with minutes remaining but they passed the ‘pressure’ test and stood firm despite a few hairy moments. “Anything could have happened,” acknowledged Cunningham afterwards.
“A dangerous lead is two points or three points. We knew when we went up to four and kept it at that then we were (okay) but you couldn’t call that match until maybe five minutes to go. The lads got over the line – semi-finals are for winning, we’ve a lot of improvement to do for the final but we’ll work hard now for the next five weeks,” he said.
For Cunningham to say there will be no hype in the lead-up to the All-Ireland final on September 9 where Galway will be looking to bridge a 24 year gap to bring Liam McCarthy West, might be wishful thinking, but certainly the Galway camp itself will aim to keep their feet on the ground over the next month.
“We’ll be trying to keep it very level headed. We do that in training; we do that all the time. I’m delighted for the supporters and on that side of it, let them go and enjoy themselves. But we still have a job to do. You are judged, your year is judged, on one game and that’s the final and the winner takes everything, that’s the hard luck side of sport, but the winner takes everything and we’ll be trying very hard to win it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mattie Murphy’s minors will bid to join the seniors on All-Ireland final day when his youngsters seek to overcome Tipperary this coming Sunday at GAA HQ. The GAA is offering adult tickets priced at just €10 if ordered by clubs, who have until this Wednesday (1pm) to submit applications via email to tickets@ gaa.ie.
For the full match report see Pages 30 & 31 of The Sentinel