Galway display true grit to win battle of endurance
Men from the west show brilliant composure to outstay Waterford and win All-Ireland
Galway’s Jason Flynn celebrates with the Liam McCarthy Cup. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Galway 0-26 Waterford 2-17
For all of the years they flashed into finals and didn’t quite sustain the dazzle, Galway hurlers won the county’s fifth All-Ireland hurling title in a battle of endurance.
They didn’t sweep to victory and never quite shook the challenge of a determined Waterford whose dogged pursuit flagged only in the last 10 minutes. But they absorbed misfortune, drove on through their mistakes and finally showed the composure that had sustained them all year to take the vital scores and in the end see off opponents, who would have taken them down had they not raised their game in the final quarter.
It was all the more gratefully received for that struggle on an emotional afternoon when a round of applause rippled through the capacity crowd in the sixth minute to commemorate centre back Tony Keady, star of Galway’s previous win in 1988, who died suddenly last month and afterwards, winning captain David Burke invoked the memory of 2012 finalist Niall Donohoe whose suicide a year later had shaken the county.
Had they lost, this would have been a typical Galway final with its early promise dissolving into demoralising error but by winning, Micheál Donoghue’s team finally delivered what the county had been fervently waiting for: a team that after 29 years and six finals was different. That could not be irrefutably demonstrated until the Liam MacCarthy had been lifted and with it the doubts and uncertainties of three decades.
Galway didn’t help him by withdrawing and lumping hopeful ball in on top of him the only effect of which was to boost the vigilant Tadhg de Búrca’s possession stats and eventually he was replaced by Niall Burke. He had played his part in softening up Waterford, though, and in the closing quarter fatigue became an issue for them.
Early on it didn’t look as if the match would get that far as a viable contest. Galway’s pace, precision and movement threatened to turn the final into a sequel of 2008: four up in four minutes and nine points scored by the 14th, the only thing detaining them at that point was a careless goal, conceded to Kevin Moran, courtesy of an empty corridor down the left wing as spare defender Aidan Harte was caught by the run.
Worse followed just before the half hour when a long, dropping ball from Kieran Bennett, designed to empower his brother Shane, ran through to Colm Callanan in the Galway goal - harmlessly, thought the capacity crowd but it ended up in the net and Waterford were just a point behind after all their opponents’ hard work, 2-4 to 0-10. A minute later Pauric Mahony had levelled it.
The laser accuracy of their shooting wavered after Galway had looked very much in business with five different players accounting for their first five scores. But play settled and the menacing glow from their attack dimmed. Conor Whelan was well marked by Noel Connors and although the young corner forward worked relentlessly he didn’t get into the sort of positions to run up a score.
In other battles between the key players, Waterford’s ran out of steam as the match wore on. Jamie Barron was replaced with five minutes to go after a phenomenal season had extended into the first half but faded afterwards. They had to mobilise Maurice Shanahan earlier than expected when Shane Bennett took a knock as early as the 23rd minute.
Their chief rain maker Austin Gleeson never got into the match and shot wides when the team needed scores at the end, from a line ball and a long-range free. He sparked occasionally, at one stage bumping his imposing marker, Gearóid McInerney over the line in the 24th minute but there would be no seizing the day as in the semi-final.
Conversely Canning was immense, impeccable from dead ball on a day when such accuracy was really needed, he also won crucial ball at the end of the match and provided sublime lay-offs, one a pass from the left that switched direction out to the right corner, but both Jason Flynn and Conor Cooney were wide - the team’s only such lapses in the second half.
By half-time, though, with Galway just a point ahead, 0-14 to 2-7, it was possible to speculate that maybe they had shot their bolt despite such clear-cut superiority.
Just after the break, Shanahan almost filched a goal off three attendant defenders and there were times when outnumbered Waterford attackers managed to pick up scraps from ball broken by the defence, Daithi Burke especially, but not secured.
It had been a consensus negotiating position that Waterford’s bench would bring more oomph to their game but in the event it was the Leinster champions who got more from their changes.
Niall Burke burst into the match in the 43rd minute, getting fouled on his first possession, creating a pointed free for Canning, shooting two points and being fouled again for a critical 70th-minute free, which pushed the margin back out to four.
In four minutes between the 48th and 52nd, Galway re-asserted control of the match. Four points, including Burke’s plus a Canning free and another from the prolific David Burke, conjured a three-point lead, 0-21 to 2-12.
Another Galway replacement Flynn also scored twice and Conor Cooney slung a miracle point over his shoulder as he fell in the 62nd minute.
They kept Waterford at arm’s length but the lead dipped to three a couple of times to excite hopes of deliverance for Derek McGrath’s men.
By now though the Westerners had a grip on the match that wouldn’t be loosened.
GALWAY: 1. Colm Callanan; 2. Adrian Tuohy, 3. Daithi Burke, 7. Aidan Harte; 5. Pádraic Mannion, 6. Gearóid McInerney, 4. John Hanbury; 8. J Coen (0-1), 9. David Burke (capt; 0-4); 15. Cathal Mannion (0-2), 10. Joseph Cooney (0-2), 11. Joe Canning (0-9, six frees, one line ball); 13. Conor Whelan (0-1), 12. Jonathan Glynn, 14. Conor Cooney (0-3). Subs: 20. Niall Burke for Glynn (43 mins; 0-2), 22. Jason Flynn for C Mannion (56 mins; 0-2), 24. Shane Moloney for David Burke (69 mins). WATERFORD: 1. Stephen O’Keeffe; 2. Shane Fives, 3. Barry Coughlan, 4. Noel Connors; 15. Darragh Fives, 18. Kieran Bennett (1-0), 7. Philip Mahony; 8. Jamie Barron (0-2), 10. Kevin Moran (capt; 1-1); 14. Michael Walsh (0-1), 6. Austin Gleeson, 11. Pauric Mahony (0-11, eight frees); 5. Tadhg de Búrca, 13. Shane Bennett, 12. Jake Dillon. Subs: 21. Maurice Shanahan for S Bennett (23 mins), 20. Brian O’Halloran (0-1) for Dillon (49 mins), 19. Tommy Ryan (0-1) for Walsh (56 mins), 23. Colin Dunford for Barron (65 mins), 22. Patrick Curran for K Bennett (65 mins). Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)