Clare defeat Galway to secure their place in the All-Ireland semi-final
Clare 1-23 Galway 2-14
Colm Galvin of Clare gets away from galway’s Damien Hayes. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Robert Altman would have loved the script and all the twisting sub-plots even though we’ve still no idea who will end up playing the starring role.
What is certain is Galway once again play nothing more than a cameo – and yet it somehow seemed fitting that the beaten All-Ireland finalists made their exit in the immediate aftermath of champions Kilkenny.
It’s been that sort of championship, somehow fitting too that one of the leading characters now is Davy Fitzgerald, a man who first starred in the last so-called hurling revolution.
Fitzgerald was surprisingly calm in the aftermath of this storm – at times a dazzling display from his young Clare team, who still afforded Galway two goals in the second half. A lesser team might have buckled under those blows but not Clare.
“Sure what’s new with us?” smiled Fitzgerald. “We made things hard, but maybe that’s better, that we can get the shots like that, and dealt with them.
“And fair play to them. I’m looking out at these lads and probably nine of them are under 22 years of age. They just amaze me. To be at this stage with this team, well, my own personal view was that it would take them another year or two to get there. To get where they are is unreal.”
Indeed an All-Ireland semi-final beckons against a Limerick team they won’t at all mind playing. “I’m not going to mention anything but, well, my mother’s a Limerick woman ... the only definite I know is that a team down the West, either Limerick or Clare, is going to be in an All-Ireland final. For hurling, it’s fantastic. Then you have Dublin and Cork in the other one . . . what a championship, and I’m delighted to part of it.”
His players looked delighted too and perfectly rightly so: Colin Ryan counts as one of their veterans at this stage but he’s rarely had better days in the Clare shirt, hitting 0-10, two from play; Padraic Collins hit five from play and Conor McGrath’s pistol shot goal on 22 minutes was deftly finished.
At full flight and with their full scoring range Clare are very hard to stop, as Galway quickly found out. They actually started well, moving a couple of points clear thanks to Damien Hayes and Joe Canning, and they looked physically up to the task as well. Soon, things started to fall apart, and nowhere more visibly than in Canning.
Canning ended up missing four frees (and one 65), most of which he would have shot in his sleep, and hit another off the post. Midway through the second half he also fumbled the ball, and Tony Kelly punished by sending it straight between the posts. David Burke hit their last couple of frees, by which stage Canning looked a beaten man in every sense.
“No one is going to blame anybody in our camp,” said Galway manager Anthony Cunningham. “Days they go over and other days they don’t. He just hit a bad patch there today.”
Indeed Cunningham wasn’t making any excuses, even though Galway hurling extends their damning record of following every All-Ireland final appearance since 1988, won they won, with an early exit the following year, or at least failure to get back into the final.
“I still think we did brilliantly to get back into the game, through two great goals and we probably lacked a small bit of composure when we got those,” added Cunningham.
“But Clare are set up very well, defensively and it took us a while to get to challenge with that and play a shorter game.”
Clare looked more than comfortable at the break, 1-12 to 0-8, yet Galway got themselves back in contention when Jonathan Glynn’s close-range shot l somehow rebounded into the net. Clare, crucially, outscored Galway five points to two in the immediate aftermath.
Later, in the 61 minute, and only on the field a matter of seconds, Healy was latched onto a Canning pass – this time after Clare lost possession – and blasted into the net. Again, crucially, Clare outscored Galway five points to two in the minutes that were left, cool, calm points from Fergal Lynch and Nicky O’Connell making it plenty safe for Clare in the end.
It was the complete team effort, Brendan Bugler and Patrick O’Connor topping off excellent defensive displays with scores, and with Darrach Honan back to full fitness, pointing from play as well, Clare look in impressive shape.