Shane Walsh’s sublime piece of skill adds to sweet Tullamore memories
Young Galway forward improving by the day ahead of Croke Park clash with Kerry
The gorgeous piece of skill from Shane Walsh for his first-half point spread like wildfire on social media. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Tullamore will live forever in my mind as the place where I stole a prized piece of confectionery from the grasp of Brian Cowen. In May 2011, I was reporting on the Leinster championship first round game between Offaly and Wexford in Tullamore. At half-time I went for a restorative cuppa, only to get to the press box refreshments stand at almost exactly the same time as our famed former Taoiseach.
He looked at me. I looked at him. He looked at the last slice of chocolate swiss roll. I transported the delicacy from the plate to my mouth with all the speed and deadly intent of a jungle tiger. He may have been a recently deposed leader of our democracy, but as anyone will tell you, the queue for the cake stand in a GAA press box is no democracy. Offaly’s most famous political export seemed to intuit this, and he bore me no ill-will.
I could almost taste my ill-gotten bounty when I walked through the gates of Tullamore on Saturday evening for the football qualifiers double-bill. As a Galway fan, I travelled in moderate levels of expectation that for all of Tipperary’s recent good form in the qualifiers, we might have enough up front to do the business, and that’s how it panned out – although not without a few scares along the way.
The manner of the last quarter Galway goal giveaway does not fill one with hope ahead of facing James O’Donoghue and company on Sunday in Croker. Retreating to one’s own 21-yard line and defending from there isn’t a great plan to begin with, but the idea would be that, having set up that cordon, you would then at least make your presence felt. Galway had two options – to tackle, or to foul. They did neither, and nearly got embarrassed.
Notwithstanding that, the four goals scored at the other end provided Galway with a lead that they were never going to relinquish, and the option-taking by our inside forwards was so much better than it had been in the Connacht final. Michael Martin is known as one of the deadliest finishers in Galway club football, but he had a hand in three of the four goals, while Danny Cummins cut down on the wides, and continues to win an ocean of ball – if he took the right option more often, he would be a real asset to this Galway team.
My Second Captains compatriot – and bulwark of the Irish Times sports section – Ken Early, once described Neymar as the first YouTube footballer. Could Shane Walsh be something similar in the GAA universe? Having watched that gorgeous piece of skill for his first-half point – killing the ball dead with his right foot from a mis-hit Paul Conroy 45, before turning and lashing it over the bar with his left – in the flesh, I only hoped that the TV cameras would do it justice.