For once Galway follow the script
IT’S THE oddest thing. Galway qualified for an All-Ireland final yesterday and nothing about it was surprising. This wasn’t 2005, it wasn’t 2001, it wasn’t 1993. They didn’t leap from the bushes or pounce from behind the door.
Insofar as these things are possible, it was straightforward and all business and the 0-22 to 0-17 final score was more a perfunctory press release than a ripping yarn.
Anthony Cunningham said afterwards that there’d be no hype before the final and, for a minute there, the notion almost seemed plausible.
They rolled alongside Cork yesterday until such time as the gradient got that bit steeper and then they left them for dead. There was no whizz-bang, no flash of smoke. Just relentless pressing and constant squeezing that ate up the thinking time of a Cork side that was made to look younger and more callow the further the game went on. A game that had stood all square at half-time was slowly and steadily put beyond Cork’s reach.
“We got a bit of a hold on the match five or 10 minutes into the second half,” said Cunningham.
“It was nip and tuck and then we stretched on two or three points. Cork rallied again with 10 minutes to go and Pa [Cronin] was very close to getting a goal – he was in on goal and it just went over the bar.
“We got a stronghold on the game and kept our noses in front. I would say we upped our work rate and the intensity of our play in the second half, particularly the middle-third, and that helped us along the way. Look it, we’re delighted to get over the line. Semi-finals are for winning and we’ve a lot of improvement to do for the final.”
You got the feeling afterwards that Jimmy Barry-Murphy will make sure this day percolates as the seasons turn over. Of the street gang of bright young things who lit up Cork’s league campaign, Conor Lehane, Jamie Coughlan, Luke O’Farrell and Lorcán McLoughlin all ended their day being called to the bench.
Lehane took an early straightener from Fergal Moore like a Loony Toons character shaking off an anvil to the head without ever quite recovering; O’Farrell had one of those afternoons where his shooting seemed to suffer in direct proportion to the effort he was putting into it. No matter. Into each life some rain must fall.
For all their struggles, they broke an equal amount of bread in the first half. The tactical chicanery of both sides meant that the game was squeezed in a vice of intrigue and second-guessing from the start.
Both teams packed centrefield in an effort to isolate a single inside-forward and they moved their other high numbers around at will, leaving opposition defenders to decide amongst themselves who to mark and where to mark them. It was hurling as algebra – if Forward A makes a run to Location X, then Defender B must be the square on the hypotenuse.