Galway have no answersOctober 4, 2012 - 7:00am
CIARAN TIERNEY AT CROKE PARK
NO complaints but lots of regrets as Galway’s dreams of a first title success in 24 years were emphatically shattered by a rampant Kilkenny side who exacted sweet revenge for their Leinster final defeat in the replayed All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park on Sunday.
It all unravelled so cruelly for the spirited young Tribesmen, who had twice tested the reigning champions’ mettle this summer, over a key five minute period of the second half during which a disallowed goal, a near miss, and a sending off effectively put paid to Galway’s chances.
But the truth was that Kilkenny were by far the superior force on the day as Brian Cody’s bold gamble of introducing both young attacker Walter Walsh and midfielder Cillian Buckley to the starting line-up hit the jackpot as the revamped Cats showed a marked improvement from the drawn game.
With Walsh firing home 1-3 on the day of his senior championship debut, and every one of their midfielders and attackers making an impact on the scoreboard, this was a stunning all-round team performance from a side who have now won six titles in seven years and the ninth of Cody’s relentless regime.
Their ravenous hunger was simply incredible again on Sunday, epitomised by Henry Shefflin’s desire on a day he became the first hurler in history to win a ninth All-Ireland medal on the field of play.
Shefflin may have dragged his side back from the brink in
the drawn game, but he had heroes in black and amber to back him up all over the field.
The question marks over James Skehill’s participation had marred the build-up to the final after he dislocated a shoulder in training on Friday night and one of the saddest sights of the afternoon was that of the Cappataggle man shaking his head in frustration and pain as he left the field at half-time.
He was unable to return for the second half and the sight of attacker Cyril Donnellan picking up a red card for a wild pull on J.J. Delaney 14 minutes into the second half only reinforced the feeling that this was never going to be Galway’s day.
Truth be told, the Tribesmen never got to grips with Kilkenny in the manner they managed in both the Leinster final and the drawn game. The champions were quicker out of the blocks, faster to the breaking ball, and there was a clear determination about them when they built up a 3-1 lead.
Not even the concession of two David Burke goals could deflect Cody’s men from their mission and it was notable that they replied instantly to the game’s first goal and then tagged on a hugely impressive 1-6 without reply when Burke’s second strike to the net prompted the biggest roar of the day from the huge maroon following.
In truth, those two goals came against the run of play and Galway were unable to build any momentum from them. They did not even manage to hit a point from play in the entire first half, with all four points from Joe Canning placed balls.
The Tribesmen were lucky to find themselves just four behind after Kilkenny had outhurled them so emphatically in that opening period. Canning’s 70th minute point, when the outcome was long since beyond doubt, was the first from play from a Galway forward on a bitterly disappointing afternoon for the attackers in maroon.
The biggest regrets, though, will linger over the events between the 44th and 49th minutes. Galway were still only five points down, despite playing so poorly, when the hard-working Damien Hayes fed Donnellan with a neat pass and the Padraig Pearses clubman fired home a fine goal through a thicket of players. But referee James McGrath pulled back the play for a foul on the Pearses man and, instead of celebrating a three pointer, Joe Canning fired over a close-range free.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.