Galway faced with the familiar question
Can Anthony Cunningham’s side shed the county’s habitual inconsistency and produce another big performance – this time against Cork, asks MALACHY CLERKIN
THE PAINT was barely dry on Galway’s Leinster final masterpiece but Anthony Cunningham was down to tone-setting business already. Flanked by his two selectors Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny, he aired the oldest sorrowful mystery of Galway hurling himself, before we sad sacks in the press seats even got our throats cleared to bring it up.
“It’s no use winning today unless we get consistency,” he said. “We’ve reminded everyone that we’ve always had great days here in semi-finals and whatever and then failed to turn up the next day. We do need consistency and that’s the big challenge for us, for our players and our management, and we’ll be looking to put that record straight.”
It’s a record that stinks, no getting away from it. Galway’s inability to back up anything from a fair-to-middling win to the occasional floor-stomper over the past decade is so much a part of them now that it must feel like it’s tattooed on to their foreheads.
The All-Ireland final defeats that followed wins over Kilkenny in 2001 and ’05 are the ones that got neon-lit but there have been others as well, slow-puncture days that drained them of life and bought them a reputation.
Like in 2002, when a 0-21 to 1-9 win over Cork served only to build them up for a one-point defeat to Clare a fortnight later. Or the following year, when they took revenge on that Clare team only to find Tipp a point too good the next day.
Or even more latterly, like in 2009 when wins over Clare and Cork (again, revenge for a numbing defeat the previous year) led to a quarter-final defeat to Waterford (again by just a point). They’ve beaten Tipp, they’ve beaten Kilkenny – in 2005 they beat them both – and still they wait, 24 years next month since their last All-Ireland. These are the times that try men’s souls.
So what’s it all about?
Pearse Piggott was there 24 years ago as a player and has put in a four-year stint as a selector under Conor Hayes since. He saw more bad days than good but he was there on the line for the win over Kilkenny in 2005. Liam MacCarthy went to Cork that year instead of back to the west, though, and he totes a heavy load from that year’s All-Ireland final with him still.
Bring it up and off the top of his head he tells you about Galway’s nine scoring chances in the closing seven minutes and the 56 per cent possession stats they had at the end of that game.
“Until the day I die,” he says, “I will regret that we didn’t get home in ’05. It hurts that bad. It has been so hard over the last decade to make a breakthrough because Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork have been so dominant.