INPHO/Donall Farmer
# expert view
Daithi Regan: "It was one of the worst refereeing decisions that was ever made."’s hurling analyst feels Galway were fortunate to get that late free on Sunday but their attacking tools are continuing to make life uncomfortable for Kilkenny.

AFTER THE EMOTIONAL roller coaster that was Sunday’s All-Ireland final, it was quite surreal to witness the general reaction at the final whistle.

The supporters were so involved in the game, particularly given the dramatic finale, that everyone was just drained by the finish. The game is over yet there is nothing to celebrate or be despondent about. It’s a strange empty feeling and one I have never witnessed before. After all the excitement, it took a while to sink in that we will be preparing to observe this again in a few weeks time.

But should we be preparing for a replay? I don’t think so. That score that tied the match was a brilliant one by Joe Canning, given the pressure he was under. I never doubted that he would convert it and actually I felt that the three Kilkenny players standing in front of him aided Canning by helping him focus on the line of direction that he had to strike the ball. It was a superb strike in the circumstances.

Yet Joe’s point arrived from a free that should never have been given. It was one of the worst refereeing decisions that was ever made and I think Barry Kelly knew he got it wrong. There has not been much focus on the yellow card that he gave to Jackie Tyrrell for that foul. If the yellow card had been brandished for dissent, then the ball should have been moved closer to goal but it never was.

In that case we must presume, Tyrrell was penalized for the foul. That is crazy. Bookings are not made for contentious fouls in hurling. I was very suspicious when I saw the yellow card shown and I believe it was a case that Barry knew he had got it wrong. Showing the yellow card was a method of convincing the 82,000 people in the stadium that you were adamant about your decision being correct.

I know Barry and I like him as a referee. In general he had a fine game on Sunday. But he got that last call wrong. I have no issue with what Brian Cody did in remonstrating with him, he was very close to the action and clearly it was a decision that infuriated him. Similarly I would admire Anthony Cunningham for standing up to Cody in the manner that he did on the sideline.

Davy Glennon is fouled near the end of the match. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Galway did enough to merit a draw though. I was not surprised in their tactics as I felt they could never cut up the gameplan that had got them this far. But I was surprised that Kilkenny still looked to be uncomfortable facing Galway with their deep-lying forwards and constant rotation. There were unusual sights in JJ Delaney being brought well out the field and Tommy Walsh ending up as a full-back. Kilkenny defenders were taken to placed that they did not want to go.

I think Kilkenny made a mistake in setting up their attack in an orthodox fashion. They made it easier to Galway to defend and contain their challenge. By playing two forwards inside – trying to isolate Eoin Larkin and Henry Shefflin for instance – they could have got more joy.

From a Galway perspective, they achieved a great deal on Sunday without their forward line firing. David Burke and Damien Hayes were very average, James Regan was taken off and for all the genius Joe Canning showed in the first-half, he had a quiet second-half.

I wrote here last week about how All-Ireland final days are games for lesser lights to shine. Niall Burke was immense in that regard for 50 minutes and I was surprised that he was taken off and Kilkenny did not switch Tyrrell onto him during the first-half.

It was amazing to see Brian Hogan thunder into the game though, he proved the catalyst for Kilkenny’s second-half revival. There were others who departed the game with their heads held high – Paul Murphy’s defending was brilliant, Tyrrell was strong throughout and James Skehill’s goalkeeping instincts were vital for Galway in keeping a clean sheet during the last ten minutes.

Talking to a Kilkenny friend yesterday, we wondered as well when was the last time that Michael Fennelly was so ineffective. That was all down to Iarla Tannian, who was immense at midfield with his movement and tackling.

The main man though was the greatest in the game. Henry gave an incredibly selfless performance to assist Kilkenny. He went for everything, looked for possession constantly and gave a performance of remarkable integrity. As the game progressed, he continued to show how badly he wanted to succeed.

It’s a curious situation now for both teams to be preparing for a replay. Last week I was certain Kilkenny would win, now I feel a victory for them will be determined on how they alter the shape of their attack. They clearly have a problem with Galway, especially the speed that players like Johnny Coen possess.Galway will try to exploit that advantage and Kilkenny will try to bring their experience to bear.

Both teams have three weeks to plot and prepare. It’s going to be fascinating what unfolds.

James Skehill: “I made a decision to take him down and hope for the best”

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

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