Tribesmen overcome early nerves and can approach final with quiet confidence
HURLING ANALYST:Anthony Cunningham’s men stuttered whenever they seized the upper hand but had too much for a raw Cork
THE BEST team by some distance only managed to win by a few yards. It was predictable enough in the end, as was the face that the expectation on Galway to replicate the start they had made against Kilkenny in the Leinster final would prove too great.
Expectation had soared due to that performance, and so had the pressure levels. They reacted accordingly, looking a very nervous team in the opening exchanges. All of them. Even Joe Canning until he settled to produce a fine individual display.
Joe went for a goal early on from that angled free when they trailed by a point. There was no need to do that but he did and got nothing in return.
That increased the pressure some more. As did the concession of handy scores, allowing Cork to grow into the game.
Still, the risk was understandable by Canning. Unless they got a goal it was always going to be a victory born out of hard labour. That is evident in this Galway team now but that and Joe’s brilliance is not enough to win an All-Ireland in most years. And considering the two counties contesting the other semi-final next Sunday, 2012 is certainly most years.
Ultimately, Galway came out in the second-half and cancelled out Cork’s primary method of attacking. Cork had far too much latitude in the first-half with short puck outs and the like. Paudie O’Sullivan was also looking dangerous inside.
Whatever Anthony Cunningham said under the Hogan Stand they returned to the field and closed down all the obvious Cork avenues of attack. The Galway defence dominated most exchanges in the second-half. That was the winning of this game.
They eventually settled and the nerves lifted off their shoulders. Anthony Nash had to send it long, down field where Niall Donoghue, Tony Óg Regan and David Collins did their jobs effectively, be it winning or breaking ball.
Too many mistakes were evident though. Donoghue was, to my mind, the best defender on show but even he struggled to clear the huge amount of ball he was winning. That epitomised the Galway performance really; almost excellent but stuttering whenever they seized the upper hand.
Niall Burke’s goal chance in the second half is another example. Great save that it was by Anthony Nash, it needed to be buried for the big performance to be confirmed.
So, they nearly produced back- to-back performances of the highest quality.
Not the worst way to go into an All-Ireland final. Whoever wins next weekend will still be hot favourites. Just how Cunningham and his players want it.
The blitzing of Kilkenny remains an isolated and extra-special showing and nobody really knows whether they can repeat it. Maybe they know themselves.
When Galway are being analysed by their All-Ireland final opponents, whoever they may be, the focus will yet again come onto Joe Canning. He demands such scrutiny due to the consistency of his performances and condition he is in this summer.