Galway’s comeback proved they have the mettle to be considered as serious contenders
We can continue to expect the unexpected in the game that keeps on giving
Galway’s Joe Canning scores a late penalty during last Sunday’s exciting Leinster senior hurling semi-final against Kilkenny at O’Connor Park. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
‘The game that keeps on giving,” Dónal Óg Cusack enthused on The Sunday Game after the frenetic finish to last Sunday’s rollercoaster ride that was the Leinster hurling semi-final.
What a finish to a game that looked over as Kilkenny took control in the final quarter and it seemed as if it would be a damage limitation exercise for Galway But the inevitable didn’t happen and the unexpected came to pass. The heroes are still the heroes.
Two spectacular points in quick succession from two special players, Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning, ensured that there will be an Act 2. We are very lucky to have another day out to get some more from the game that’s always giving.
So is the momentum with Galway, who refused to die when death seemed to be the only option? Or is tradition the overriding unwritten determining law which favours Kilkenny? Galway needed this performance to show the unbelievers that they have the players to be as good as they were in 2012 – if not better.
They also needed to prove to themselves that they have the ability and drive to be considered as realistic contenders.
Kilkenny have done enough this year to drag themselves back to the top table. However, Sunday’s final quarter capitulation tarnishes the aura of invincibility quite a bit.
Top tableYes, they are sitting at the top table but so are a handful of other counties. And the Cats are showing chinks, hinting that they are not the force they were a number of years ago.
The good news though is that the hurling year has carried right on from where it finished last year.
Even the bookies will need some new formula or software to predict odds based on form in future if the past few games are anything to go on.
In Munster, hot favourites Cork should have been beaten by Waterford the first day out. In the replay they were like a different team and were much too good for the Déise.
In the next game Clare were clear favourites but were well beaten by a fired-up Cork.
In Leinster, Galway were unbackable against Laois in their first championship game but were extremely lucky to have won. They went in as underdogs against Kilkenny but ground out a very creditable draw.
There is so much uncertainty, surprise and intrigue in this, the most artistic of team sports, that we are almost expecting the unexpected to happen again this year.
But what exactly is hurling giving? As a spectacle is there a better sport?
These amateur players are investing so much of themselves in an effort to be the best they can be. They are stronger, faster, fitter, more skilful than hurlers have ever been. Consequently we have faster, harder-hitting, higher-scoring games. The speed of execution is so fast and so many movements happen in such small timeframes that many of the subtleties are missed.