No fireworks but hurlers answer all the tough questionsAugust 16, 2012 - 8:53am
Fergal Moore set the tone with a superb interception under the Hogan Stand four minutes in, but by that stage Cork had already made it clear that they were not going to be swept aside easily as Patrick Horgan (free) and wing forward Jamie Coughlan landed two fine points in response to a superb opening score from Hayes.
Canning opened his account from a 35 metre free in response to a score from Cork centre-forward Cian McCarthy and, perhaps buoyed by the early scoring blitz against Kilkenny, the Portumna sharpshooter opted to go for a goal from a routine 20 metre free – which was blocked on the line by Nash – after just nine minutes.
A needless early gamble, perhaps, but it also gave an early indication of how urgently Galway wanted to take control of this game. Instead, Nash’s save gave a lift to the Rebels.
Paudie O’Sullivan picked off an easy point after a poor clearance from Moore, but Canning reduced the deficit following a foul on Niall Burke and then unleashed a quick pass for Regan to level the tie at four points apiece on 13 minutes.
Donoghue, Moore, and Coen were battling brilliantly in the Galway defence at this stage, while Canning tracked back to help out around midfield, but Horgan edged the Rebels back in front after midfielder Andy Smith was penalised for over-carrying.
Horgan and Canning, following a foul on Iarla Tannian, exchanged points from placed balls before Cork defender Brian Murphy – engaged in a right tussle with Canning – set up O’Sullivan’s second point of the afternoon.
The Rebels must have been delighted to find themselves leading by 0-7 to 0-5 after just over 20 minutes, given the savage intensity the Tribesmen had shown early on against Kilkenny, and it was clear that the outsiders were not going to be shaken off easily.
Canning, fed by young Conor Cooney, pointed following a strong run, but he was not having it all his own way against a hugely committed Murphy. Cooney had a rare goal chance forced out over the line by Nash and Canning converted the resultant ‘65’ to put the teams back on level terms.
Canning had accounted for five of Galway’s seven scores at that stage of a strange, rather shapeless, first half, in which Cork’s short puck-out strategy regularly caught out the Tribesmen.
Horgan edged Cork back in front from a 40 metre free, harshly awarded against young Donoghue, before O’Sullivan’s third point of the afternoon restored a two point advantage. O’Sullivan looked dangerous in the first half, but was subdued by a committed Galway defence after the break.
Two long deliveries up-field from Galway centre back Tony Og Regan resulted in superb scores from David Burke and Canning, before Coen’s sideline cut saw Hayes set off on a strong run and set up a neat point for Canning on 33 minutes.
It was tit-for-tat at this stage, with O’Farrell pulling one back for Cork, only for David Burke to land a brilliant score from the left corner after collecting a hand pass from Smith on the stroke of half-time.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s men, who went into this semi-final as 9/4 outsiders, refused to wilt and went into the dressing room on level terms after Horgan landed a free from half-way following a foul on full-back Stephen McDonnell.
All of the talk around Croke Park at this stage was about how much Cork had put it up to the new Leinster champions. But what a second half the men in maroon produced, despite conceding another free to Horgan within a minute of the restart, as Donoghue, Moore, Coen, Regan, and David Collins began to squeeze the life out of the Cork attackers, while Tannian and Smith took charge around midfield.
The Tribesmen scored the next three points – six of the next seven – and never relinquished control of the lead.
Conor Cooney, following a delivery from Regan, blazed a rare goal chance across the face of the Cork goals within a couple of minutes of the re-start.
Then Canning won and converted a free, Regan won Nash’s subsequent puck-out and set up a fine point for Hayes, and Canning registered a morale-boosting score following good work by Smith and David Burke.
A burst of three points in a row provided a huge boost in such a tight game, and Galway led by 0-14 to 0-12.
An over-hit pass from Canning saw young Cooney put the ball back into the danger zone, where it broke for Niall Burke to score an opportunist point and extended Galway’s advantage.
Midfielder Pa Cronin quickly set up Horgan’s only score from play at the other end, but the hard-working Niall Burke made up for his early misses with a mighty point from 60 metres.
The battling Galway players kept closing down the midfield sector at this stage and played with just two men, the Portumna duo of Canning and Hayes, up front at times as they showed great determination to grind out the win.
Another rare goal shot on goal from Niall Burke, who had a fine second half, saw Nash deflect the ball over the line and Canning converted the resultant ‘65’ to put four points between the sides in the 52nd minute.
Substitute Darren Sweetnam pulled one back, but then Hayes landed a fantastic point from half-way after picking up a puck-out from Galway goalkeeper James Skehill.
Cork had a goal chance when Cronin got his stick to a Nash free, only for the sliotar to zoom over the bar, on 56 minutes and looked to be still in with a strong shout when Naughton hit his superb score on the run barely a minute later.
At 0-18 to 0-16, it was still anyone’s game; but, crucially, the likes of Moore, Donoghue, and Coen were snuffing the life out of the Cork attacks. A ground stroke from Moore saw Regan take off on a strong run and register a morale boosting score with 59 minutes on the clock, just before the St Thomas’ attacker was called ashore to make way for Donnellan.
Nash fired over a free from his own half, but Coen lifted the spirits of every Galway person in the stadium when he emerged from a scramble and cleared the ball upfield after the backs crowded out a goal chance for Cronin.
Crucially, Galway landed the last three points of the game. Hayes set up a score for the unmarked Smith, Canning converted a free which he won himself 65 metres from the Cork goals, and Hayes closed out the victory by landing his fourth point two minutes into injury time.
Team captain Moore summed up the commitment in the Galway ranks with an inspirational late block to thwart a chance for O’Sullivan, but Galway had already guaranteed their place in next month’s final at that stage.