©INPHO/James Crombie
Cats v Tribe

Cunningham delighted to still be in with a shot

The Galway manager says that he was not surprised by Henry Shefflin’s decision to take a point from a late penalty.

GALWAY MANAGER ANTHONY Cunningham admitted that he was relieved to get out of Croke Park on Sunday with a second shot at Kilkenny — and the All-Ireland title.

Joe Canning’s pointed free drew the sides level at 2-13 to 0-19 deep into stoppage time, setting up a replay on 30 September as the hurling final ended with h0nours even for the first time since 1959.

“At the finish there, the team that gets the last score is always a bit relieved,” Cunningham said afterwards. “No matter what draw you get, whether it’s the first round of a club championship or an intercounty or club final, we’re delighted to be still in it.

If we were walking out the door and weren’t in, we’d be saying that we got so close and let it slip. But we were delighted that we didn’t let it slip and we will kick on from this. We’re a young developing team and it’s always going to be tough against Kilkenny.

Boosted by Canning’s brilliant solo goal in the ninth minute, Galway dominated the opening half and led by five points at half-time, a margin which would have been greater had Henry Shefflin not pointed a succession of frees shortly before the break.

It was Kilkenny who dominated the second half, outscoring the Tribesmen by 0-12 to 1-4, but Cunningham said that such ebb and flow was to be expected.

“In an All-Ireland final when you’re playing Kilkenny or playing any team, there are going to be times when they’re going to have periods of dominance and we’re going to have periods of dominance

“Our period of dominance was early in the first half and in the first 15 or 20 minutes of the second half they kicked on and went ahead. But then we came back, got a great goal and rallied again. We could have kicked on from that but a draw is a fair result.

They had turned the screw to some extent and started hurling but they were matching what we did in the first half. You’re always going to get periods of dominance in any match and we told them at half-time that this was going to go the wire. Even when things go bad, you have to stay hurling.

He added a tribute to the Galway supporters: “We showed great character and the support we had today was the 16th man, it was tremendous. And the Galway supporters are going to get version three of the saga for the summer.”

Debate after the final whistle focused on Kilkenny’s 68th-minute penalty and Shefflin’s decision to safely point it, putting the Cats one up with the clock running down, rather than go for goal and almost certain victory.

Cunningham says the safe option wasn’t that surprising. In fact, it’s probably what Galway would have done had the shoe been on the other foot.

“He went for a goal in the first half and it was saved from the 21. It was a draw match at the time and would have put them a point ahead. If they’d went for it and missed it, they’d be saying why didn’t they take the point? In that type of scenario, you’re better to take your point.

“In that scenario, they were going well and looking to get ahead. If it’s saved, it’s a big bonus for the other team. For us, we’d probably have done the same thing, yeah.”

Talking Points: Galway 2-13 Kilkenny 0-19, All-Ireland SHC final

Murph’s Sideline Cut: “You take the two stars and you see the game through their eyes”