Championship talking points
By Cian O'Connell
Maroon and white glory
There was an explosion of western joy. Hope was a constant companion for 29 years, but now Galway are the All Ireland champions once more. A great Galway roar greeted referee Fergal Horgan’s final whistle.
Mícheál Donoghue’s sensible approach has steered Galway to the summit of the hurling world. The August 2016 All Ireland SHC Semi-Final loss to Tipperary was harrowing. A couple of unfortunate injuries and defensive lapses proved costly, but Galway were accompanied by a sense of mission throughout the current campaign.
That is perfectly illustrated by an 11 match unbeaten Allianz Hurling League and Championship sequence. Defeat to Wexford might have stopped Galway from claiming promotion to Division 1B, but Donoghue repeatedly referenced that the year wouldn’t be defined by that match. It most certainly wasn’t.
Winning the League increased Galway’s confidence and with momentum being generated they motored smoothly through Leinster. Dublin, Offaly, and Wexford were all defeated by a Galway outfit that was developing nicely.
Inevitably the Tipperary hurdle was awkward, but Joe Canning’s point for the ages was an appropriate finish to a thrilling tussle. Galway were back in September. Losses in 1990, 1993, 2001, 2005, 2012, and 2015 brought plenty of heartbreak and debate, but Galway were primed for this encounter.
Cool and clinical Galway absorbed the concession of two first half goals. The panic button wasn’t going to be pressed because Galway ploughed on. A free from Joe Canning here, a David Burke, Joseph Cooney or a Conor Cooney point there.
Then in the closing stages Niall Burke and Jason Flynn craved involvement. That type of drive and desire is what got Galway over the line.
It was a complete team victory. There was stamina and skill, but most importantly of all, spirit in this Galway panel. Donoghue, Noel Larkin, and Francis Forde can reflect on a joyous and silverware laden stint.
Precise Galway finishing
The conventional wisdom suggested Galway would need goals, but they didn’t. That was chiefly due to the Tribesmen’s splendid point taking ability.
Scoring 0-26 in an All Ireland Final is no mean feat especially against a Waterford side, who are so defensively sound.
While Stephen O’Keeffe was afforded significant protection Galway still found a way to pilfer points, especially from out the field.
Cathal Mannion, David Burke, Joseph Cooney, Joe Canning, and Conor Cooney were splendid at nailing important scores for Galway.
Late on Niall Burke and Jason Flynn were summoned. While their points arrived inside there still was an admirable quality to the way Galway continued to probe even as Waterford were posing demanding questions.
At the Semi-Final stage Galway registered 0-22 when beating Tipperary, in the Leinster showpiece Donoghue’s charges 0-29.
Much has been made about Galway’s physical power, but there was considerable poise demonstrated during the past two months especially.
Waterford’s dignity and defiance
It started with a flurry of Galway points before Kevin Moran scampered through for a trademark and tidy Waterford goal. The Deise weren’t going to do down without a fight. So it transpired.
Galway were that little bit slicker, but Waterford stayed in the reckoning. Derek McGrath’s sterling work with a highly respected and constantly developing group nearly earned the ultimate reward.
In defeat, though, McGrath and his selectors continued to show the true value of sport and loyalty. McGrath and Dan Shanahan both spoke passionately and with conviction about how ‘proud’ they were with Waterford’s effort.
Jamie Barron exemplified Waterford’s willingness, Tadhg de Burca was effective, Pauric Mahony drilled a string of fine points.
At the opposite end Galway were just doing enough with a critical late burst the decisive spell in a keenly contested match.
Afterwards McGrath and Shanahan acknowledged that Galway were deserving of a marginal win. Waterford’s future still appears bright.
While that might be scant consolation in the coming days and weeks Waterford still contested an All Ireland Final. Galway have encountered real pain before experiencing pleasure. Will something similar happen to Waterford?
Another Galway minor triumph
This was another Galway minor success coated in character. Cork started in blistering fashion mining two gorgeous goals courtesy of Evan Sheehan and Brian Turnbull.
Classy Cork corner forward play was rewarded early on, but Galway remained brave. Jeffrey Lynskey’s team hung on in there. Only trailing by three points at the break Galway really thundered into the contest after the restart.
Suddenly Jack Canning stepped on to centre stage stitching two beautiful goals. Sean Bleahene was productive inside too hitting five points over the course of the hour.
Since 1992 Galway have now claimed 10 All Ireland minor titles, a hugely impressive achievement. Lynskey deserves the utmost credit for guiding Galway to victories in 2015 and 2017.
That both those triumphs were secured with supposedly weak teams highlights the importance of sheer hard work.
Last year Galway’s panel was stocked with medalists from the previous campaign, but there was a spirit and drive to the Tribe outfit.
Clare, Kilkenny, and Cork were all defeated. Good teams were beaten by Galway, who deservedly reclaimed the Irish Press Cup.