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Dublin: 15 °C Friday 14 August, 2020

5 big picture takeaways from Galway's 2017 All-Ireland hurling win over Waterford

The Tribesmen ended a 29-year-wait to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup that day.

THE 2017 All-Ireland final between Galway and Waterford was aired on TG4 earlier today.

joe-canning-celebrates-with-the-liam-mccarthy Galway's Joe Canning carries the Liam MacCarthy Cup around Croke Park. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

1. Joe Canning finally wins an All-Ireland medal with Galway

The star forward had tasted All-Ireland success with his club Portumna, but Joe Canning had to wait until 2017 to collect his much-deserved Celtic Cross.

After the disappointments of 2012 and 2015, some doubted whether one of the best hurlers of his generation would ever win one. There was also a career-threatening hamstring injury in the midst of all that to add to the uncertainty.

Galway finished that 2017 decider as three-point victors, and it was fitting that a Canning sideline was the last act of the game. Almost 10 years after making his senior debut for the Galway seniors Canning was now an All-Ireland winner, helping his county end a 29-year-drought in the process.

He picked up his fifth All-Star award later that year, and capped off an incredible season with the Hurler of the Year gong.

cyril-farrell-is-held-shoulder-high-by-fans Cyril Farrell guided Galway to All-Ireland success in 1988. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

2. Ending the famine

A first All-Ireland since 1988 brought much relief to the Galway masses. In the interim, the Tribesmen reached six All-Ireland finals where they came up short. Seven, if you include the drawn All-Ireland against Kilkenny in 2012 where Canning slotted over a last-minute free to secure a replay.

From the outset of the 2017 season, Galway looked like they were shaping up to be a contender for the All-Ireland crown. They finished the National League as comprehensive Division 1 winners, defeating the then reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary by 16 points in the final. 

They collected more silverware in the Leinster championship, their first provincial crown since 2012, and their second-ever Leinster title.

That victory cemented their status as favourites for the All-Ireland that year. They repeated the trick against Tipperary in an epic semi-final that was punctuated by that Canning miracle shot from near the sideline to send Galway to the final.

All that winning momentum they picked up culminated in another fine display against Waterford to end the season as champions.

gearoid-mcinerney Gearóid McInerney on the ball for Galway. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

3. Last year of old hurling championship format

The 2017 All-Ireland championship was the last year that the competition consisted of the old-style provincial, qualifier and knock-out structures. 

As mentioned, Galway picked up the Leinster crown that year while Waterford were edged out by Cork at the semi-final stage in Munster.

Big changes followed in 2018, as the era of the provincial round-robin championships was ushered in. It proved to be a huge hit with hurling fans everywhere as the new format produced a series of thrilling spectacles, particularly in the Munster competition.

Galway adapted to that transition well as they navigated their way back to the final the following year, retaining their provincial title en route. But it was Limerick who succeeded in the 2018 final, ending a 45-year gap since they last lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

derek-mcgrath Derek McGrath stepped down as Waterford manager in 2018. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

4. Waterford enter seas of change

Much of the Galway side who started that 2017 final are still active at inter-county level, while personnel in the Waterford camp has undergone some big changes since then.

Michael Brick Walsh, a Déise stalwart, announced his inter-county retirement last year after an impressive career. Defender Philip Mahony called time on his days hurling for Waterford at the start of 2020, while Barry Coughlan stepped away in 2018.

Noel Connors and Maurice Shanahan are not involved in the panel this year after they were omitted by the new boss Liam Cahill.

The bainisteoir bib has changed hands twice since 2017. Derek McGrath, who guided Waterford to that first All-Ireland final since 2007, resigned as their manager the following summer.

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His five years in charge ended in disappointment as Waterford suffered an early championship exit on account of the new format changes. He was replaced by Páraic Fanning, who remained in the position for just one year before stepping down after Waterford finished bottom of the Munster round-robin.

Galway have also come under new management since that 2017 battle, with Shane O’Neill succeeding Micheál Donoghue last year.

chris-crummy-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Dublin stunned Galway in the 2019 Leinster championship. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5. Struggles in the new provincial round-robin format

The new round-robin championship format has received plenty of praise since its arrival, but the change means that some heavyhitter sides bow out of the championship early.

Galway fell victim to that last year, while Waterford have crashed out of Munster in back-to-back seasons.

In fact, the Déise have failed to to win any of their eight Munster championship games between 2018 and 2019. They played out one dramatic draw against Tipperary in 2018.

The Tribesmen returned to the All-Ireland final in 2018, although they encountered some huge challenges along the way. Leading by 12 points against Kilkenny in the Leinster final replay, Galway managed to hold off a second-half fightback to retain their title.

They coughed up another big lead in the All-Ireland semi-final against Clare, a thrilling battle that ended in extra-time and a draw. A similar pattern unfolded in the replay with Galway squeezing over the line before eventually being dethroned by Limerick.

They subsequently lost Canning to a serious groin injury in the 2019 league, but his return was not enough to prevent them from losing a season-ending defeat to Dublin in the Leinster round-robin.

– First published 16.00, 26 April

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