Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Galway get reality check in one-sided final replayOctober 3, 2012 - 2:21pm
IN the build up to last Sunday’s All-Ireland hurling final replay, the nagging feeling that Galway had left it behind in the drawn game just wouldn’t go away and, sadly, they have now paid the ultimate price for that spurned opportunity. When you have Kilkenny on the rack, you simply must put them away.
The champions don’t give opponents second chances – at least, not this great Kilkenny team – and having done some serious homework in the intervening three weeks, turned things around so much that they managed to inflict the heaviest All-Ireland final defeat on a Galway team in modern times.
Performing with greater intensity and hitting harder than in the stalemate encounter, Kilkenny’s huge gamble of throwing in Walter Walsh for his championship debut on such a high stakes occasion paid off spectacularly. The towering U-21 player ended up with 1-3 and the man of the match accolade on a day hardly a single Galway man won his individual battle.
A fifth consecutive All-Ireland defeat for the county offers few consolations. The impression that Kilkenny were finally getting a handle on Galway’s tactics in the second-half of the drawn final was confirmed last Sunday. They dictated the rules of engagement almost from the throw in and their superiority in the opening-half was hardly reflected in an interval advantage of a mere four points.
Only for a two-goal burst midway through the half – which had the huge Galway crowd rocking – the match could have been over at the interval. David Burke, occupying the full forward role, was the man who twice breached the Kilkenny lines; the first green flag after an instinctive flick to Iarla Tannian’s delivery; the second a goal of the year contender following great link up play between Damian Hayes and Cyril Donnellan.
Those green flags ought to have given Galway serious momentum, but instead it was Kilkenny who took over, registering an unanswered 1-6 without reply as they dominated all the critical areas around the field. Henry Shefflin was doing a lot of damage on the forty, with Richie Hogan, starting at full forward, Richie Power and Eoin Larkin all looking different and more driven men compared to three weeks ago.
Power had netted a timely Kilkenny response in the 18th minute after a clearly struggling James Skehill had managed to parry a close range Larkin effort, while young Walsh continued to prove a handful for Johnny Coen in the air. The amount of ball pumped into the left corner of the Galway defence was clearly a pre-arranged strategy and was one of the main reasons why Kilkenny were so superior for much of the opening 35 minutes.
A few bad wides, however, coming up to half-time prevented the title holders from really pushing clear and, in fact, they failed to register a score in the concluding ten minutes of the half. They left a Galway team which, incredibly, didn’t notch a single point from play prior to the interval, hanging on and two Joe Canning placed balls left them only 1-13 to 2-5 behind at the break.
Early second-half points from Hogan and Shefflin sandwiched an Andy Smith effort before a number of key incidents all went against Galway. A disallowed Donnellan goal in the 44th minute after referee James McGrath had controversially failed to apply the advantage rule enraged fans in maroon, who then suffered further agony when Canning’s low effort thundered off the far post.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.