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Dublin: 15°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Glory at last for old foe Joe, Galway to push on for more glory and Cork minor disappointment

The42′s columnist John Gardiner looks back on yesterday’s All-Ireland minor and senior hurling finals.

GALWAY FINALLY MANAGED to find some real consistency in 2017 – and they’ve reaped the rewards by claiming League, Leinster and All-Ireland senior hurling titles.

When I was hurling with Cork, I always felt that if Galway performed at their best, you’d be under pressure and they’d probably beat you.

The problem for them was getting those performances on a consistent basis – until now.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Through the League, there were signs of it and they knew that if they could carry that into the summer, they’d be there or thereabouts.

But now that they’re champions, it will bring a new kind of pressure. All of the other challengers will look to raise their games against Galway next year.

In terms of age profile, they’re in good shape to launch a strong defence of their title.

Goalkeeper Colm Callanan’s 35 but I couldn’t see any fella retiring after that.

Physically, they’re huge men, and the smallest of their forwards is still 6 foot.

Whatever way the ball came in, they were able to win it, and that was also the key for Kilkenny during their golden period.

They had forwards who could win their own ball, and physically impact on an opposition’s defence.

Galway have the tools to keep doing that in the years to come.

What also helped them was that, while referee Fergal Horgan had a good game, he was leaving stuff go.

Joe Canning speaks to referee Fergal Horgan Referee Fergal Horgan contributed to a good final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The big men were able to put in big tackles but Galway’s work-rate up front was incredible.

Waterford’s Tadhg de Búrca usually sits back in the hole and while he pucked a good bit of ball, he was under pressure when usually, he can ping balls down the wings and make life easier for his forwards.

Galway’s half-forwards were also back inside their own half at times and that left more space up front.

That allowed them to play long ball into Johnny Glynn at times and that also helped to negate de Búrca in that sweeper role.

Galway might not have threatened for a goal, but they kept ticking over with points from out the field.

They haven’t scored a goal since beating Dublin in the Leinster championship, in fact, but 26 points was still a big tally.

Conor Cooney scores a goal Galway haven't scored goals since beating Dublin - but they didn't need them. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Waterford got 2-17 as well and you’d normally have a chance with that but normally a couple of goals and 20 points will get you over the line. In this case, the 26 points was good enough for Galway.

The loss of Shane Bennett hurt Waterford, and changed their dynamic too. They brought on Maurice Shanahan when they would have preferred to introduce him later in the game.

They had a tendency to go high to Maurice but Galway’s defenders were well able to cope, and they were the ones driving out with breaking ball.

But Galway did leave Waterford hang in there by conceding those two goals.

For the first one, Kevin Moran still had plenty to do when he took possession but the Galway defenders were sucked out and there was nobody standing back.

With the extra defender, you’d have thought there would be somebody back there but it was still a great finish from Moran.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was a big score because Galway had scored four points from four shots, and Waterford looked nervous.

The second goal was a defensive error from a long ball, Colm Callanan coming out when he shouldn’t have.

At that point, Waterford got some hope and belief but Galway didn’t let them get into any sort of rhythm.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Joe Canning and finally getting his hands on a coveted All-Ireland medal.

I played in 2009 when he scored 2-12 against us and that seems a long time ago.

He deserves this more than anyone else. Because of the potential he showed early on his career, he was expected to lead and carry Galway but other forwards stood up this year, and that took some of the pressure off him.

Joe Canning Tackles John Gardiner Here I am in action against Joe Canning in 2011. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

That extra support enabled him to play and when Galway needed him most, he scored that stunning point to win the semi-final against Tipperary.

He played well yesterday but it was a more workmanlike performance, tracking back and picking off his few scores. He should gain even more confidence now with that All-Ireland monkey off his back.

But as a group, you’d have to give these Galway lads credit. Almost two years ago, they made a big move to get rid of their previous manager Anthony Cunningham.

It’s not often that works out but this is a fairytale ending and dreams have come true for guys that wanted change and Donoghue in.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The challenge for them now is to kick on and win more. I think they’ll need to freshen things up and they will.

They’ll bring in a couple of players from the underage set-up because they were fairly tight on personnel I thought.

They brought Johnny Glynn back from America but lads coming through from U21 and minor will freshen things up.

It will also keep fellas on their toes and for Donoghue, it’s all about managing the next phase now and ensuring that fellas don’t get carried away. But with the bunch of players they have, I don’t believe that will happen.

The beauty of how Galway played this year was their adaptability. They played against a sweeper system in the Leinster final against Wexford, and Offaly used a double-sweeper, but they still found the answers.

And they didn’t really change at all, with those flat six forwards. The message from Galway was ‘this is what we have, and we’re not going to change.’

Donoghue had six forwards who he believed were good enough to bring them over the line – and they’re worthy champions.

Galway also won the minor title and that’s disappointing from a Cork perspective.

I played in 2001 when we last won a minor crown but I take no pleasure in that.

There were three lads from Na Piarsaigh involved – Evan Sheehan, Daire Connery and my cousin, Craig Hanafin.

Cork panel We can still be proud of our Cork minor hurlers. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

I dropped them messages before the game to wish them luck but you don’t want to overdo it either, or put too much pressure on them at that age, because they have enough going on.

There was a lot of talk about the minor team this year, and a new generation coming through, but the future is still bright and it’s been a decent campaign overall.

The seniors were beaten in an All-Ireland semi-final but you’d have taken a Munster championship at the start of the year.

Winning the minor would have been lovely, and we could have done with winning it, but those two games against Tipp in Munster built real character in the lads and will stand them in good stead.

Robert Downey’s disallowed goal was disappointing – and big talking point.

It was probably the correct decision but hard to say at the time and in a two-point game, it really made a difference.

But Galway fully deserved their victory and Cork had a couple of wides at crucial times.

Brian Turnbull You'll be seeing a lot more of Brian Turnbull and some of his minor colleagues. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

We can still be proud of this bunch because it was a good year and I saw them play a good bit.

There’s potentially some very good players to come through, like Brian Turnbull from Douglas, who had a great semi-final. Evan’s a really good hurling and played well in the Munster final but he was injured coming in yesterday.

I’d also expect Daire to make the step-up and there’s a few of these lads that you’ll be seeing plenty more of in the years to come.

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John Gardiner

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