Drained fans to go through it all again after epic battle in CrokerSeptember 14, 2012 - 7:00am
IT was the 33rd minute of the second half. Incredibly, Galway and Kilkenny were tied 2-12 to 0-18, after an absorbing, entertaining and emotionally draining All-Ireland final. More drama was to come.
Up steps Henry Shefflin to take a penalty. Time appeared to stand still. In the previous play, Kilkenny corner back Paul Murphy delivered a high ball into the danger area towards Eoin Larkin who was marshalled by Galway full-back Kevin Hynes. The ball dropped back towards the goal, out dived custodian James Skehill to save a certain goal, and in his exuberance, took the legs from Larkin. A foul, no question.
This was to be the defining moment of the 2012 All-Ireland final, or so we thought. Shefflin looked to the sideline for guidance on what to do. Everybody else looked to the sky for divine intervention. Kilkenny manager Brian Cody shrugged his shoulders – you don’t tell Shefflin what to do, he said afterwards.
The hearts of every one of the crowd of 81,932 were in their mouths. Most people couldn’t look; or at best peeked through the gaps in their hands that had covered their faces.
It was unreal tension. Unbearable stuff. From the second the penalty was awarded, ‘til the moment Shefflin struck the ball, the wait was excruciatingly long. This was to be the moment King Henry would be sainted the greatest hurler of all time.
Score a goal, and the 33 years old Ballyhale Shamrocks legend would have secured his ninth All-Ireland title, eclipsing Christy Ring’s and John Doyle’s record of eight each. Score a goal and he would have won man-of-the-match, was a shoo-in for another All-Star award and probably Hurler of the Year. We’d have never heard the end of it, and rightly so.
Go for goal and miss, and the boost Galway would have received would surely have swung the momentum back in the Tribesmen’s favour.
Only Fergal Moore, Skehill and Tony Óg Regan on the line stood between Shefflin and immortality. He’d gone for the jugular from a close-in free in the opening half, but crucially that was batted away by team captain Moore. It must have played on Shefflin’s mind.
He didn’t risk it, ballooned it high and over the bar into the Davin Stand, opting for safety instead of glory. Phew! A collective sigh of relief from the massive Galway support – they were still in it, just one point down.
And still there was more theatre to follow. Richie Hogan fouls Galway’s David Burke in the final minute of normal time; hero to villain in nanoseconds. This is it we thought. Up steps Joe Canning, 1-8 scored up to that juncture. You’d put your house on him landing it. Bang. Wide. It’s just not going to be Galway’s day, we thought.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.