Galway and Clare to do it all again after 94 minutes of madness
All-Ireland champions roar out of the blocks before they are slowly but surely reeled in
Clare’s Jason McCarthy scores the equalising point against Galway at Croke park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Galway 1-30 Clare 1-30
Hurling’s facility for improbable decadence is safe and well. Clare and Galway strapped each other to the rocket here and shot off into the sky, landing back on the ground together after 94 minutes of insanity. Jason McCarthy’s equaliser in the fourth minute of injury-time and the end of the second period of extra-time ensured that we’d have to do it all again. The beautiful madness of it all.
Clare never lay down here despite being outclassed from early on. At times, Galway looked like a trick question in a table quiz. No matter what Clare wrote down in the opening 20 minutes, it came nowhere close to being the answer.
When Donal Tuohy attempted a few early short-puck-outs, Joe Canning and Conor Whelan snapped like venus fly-traps and returned them for points. Conor Cooney and Johnny Glynn alternated at the edge of the square - Cooney stitched a point after seven minutes, Glynn put Cathal Mannion away for one of this own after 12.
Clare teetered on the brink in those early exchanges. Galway were 0-6 to 0-1 up after a quarter of an hour and with Conor Cooney rampant at full-forward, a goal for the All-Ireland champions felt inevitable. So much so that when it came, with Conor Cooney running it in from close range after Clare failed to deal with another high ball aimed at Glynn, there seemed nothing for it but to start making plans for the final.
Canning nailed a point from 65 metres soon after, leaving Galway 1-7 to 0-1 ahead. Time to send a few early texts nailing down tickets. Maybe hit send on a flight home for the third week in August if you were a Galway fan abroad. There was surely nothing left to see.
Even when Clare responded by sending Colm Galvin back to screen in front of Glynn as sweeper, it seemed like little more than an attempt at keeping the score down. Galway were dictating everything and any bit of ball Clare were getting into their hand around their half-back line was routinely contaminated. Galvin, Seadna Morey, David McInerney and Jamie Shanahan all pucked aimless ball away, pressured to breaking point.
And yet, and yet. Once Galvin got his legs under him at sweeper, Clare settled. They nipped and tucked away at Galway like coastal erosion. A point for David Reidy, a point for Tony Kelly, a couple of frees from Peter Duggan. Drip, drip, drip. By the half-hour mark, Galway’s lead was down to four.
They were leaving Clare in the game too, spilling wide after wide. It wasn’t that their shooting was atrocious or anything - three Hawkeye calls went against them in the first half alone - but they coloured just far enough outside the lines to keep Clare breathing.
It all added up to a 1-9 to 0-9 lead for Galway at half-time in normal time. Both sides would have gone to their tea encouraged by what they’d done. Galway at that point had every reason to be satisfied that they were the better side, Clare must have been delighted to still be in with any sort of shout.
The Clare management kept their team in the dressing room four minutes longer than they were supposed to at the break - presumably they spent it telling the players they had to find a way to get John Conlon into the game. In the Hurler of the Year stakes, he was getting monstered in every sense by Daithí Burke - although the irresistible Pádraig Mannion was probably wiping both their eyes at that stage, in truth. Clare had done enough to survive but if they were going to thrive, they needed a huge second half from Conlon.
Lo and behold, they got it. Conlon scored his first point off the fringes of a ruck four minutes in, part of a thunderous start to the second period by Clare. Shane O’Donnell nailed an excellent score off some great work by Kelly, Duggan iced another free.
By now there was only a point in it and the game was careering off into the magical mystery world that only hurling can. Conor Cooney scythed through for a sight of goal, only for Tuohy to pull off a splendid diving save. David Burke blazed into the game with two points in three minutes.
Clare sub David Fitzgerald took a clever pass from Podge Collins to keep Clare humming, Colm Galvin ran onto a gorgeous bat down from Kelly and did the same. When Conlon tossed over his second of the evening on 53 minutes, we were level at 0-19 to 1-16. The place was rocking, Gearóid McInerney was limping off for Galway, anything looked possible.
And it was. Conor Whelan sliced the posts with his usual unthinkable score from the sideline. Canning matched it with one of his own a minute later and then tagged on a free. Galway two up, 60 minutes gone.
Back came Clare. Duggan was having the game of his life, catching puck-outs from both goalkeepers and flawless in the frees. He got a sight of goal on 64 minutes, got crowded out, swung at the ball as it popped in the air and scored the point of the day to level it again.
To and fro, fro and to. Galway went on a burst, nailing three points on the spin from Canning, Niall Burke and the now dominant David Burke. With 66 on the clock, they were 1-23 to 0-23 ahead. Clare just shrugged and found an answer. Kelly scored a brilliant sideline cut, Conlon got out in front of Daithí Burke for his third, Duggan found another free.
Into extra-time and it was elemental stuff now. Clare had more of the play, Galway more of the scores. Canning popped over a second sideline cut of the day and chipped a free. Clare had five wides from five shots inside the first five minutes. The sides turned for home with Galway 1-26 to 0-27 ahead.
Everything was happening all at once now. The second half of extra-time exploded with Aron Shanagher’s goal, a high ball on the edge of the square caught, turned and dispatched. Shanagher was on as a sub, playing his first match back after a year out with a cruciate injury. But nobody had time to dwell on sweet stories - Jason Flynn equalised while everyone was catching their breath.
Duggan pushed Clare ahead again, O’Donnell put them two clear with an unbelievable score on the run. Flynn kept Galway in it with a free and then hoiked a goal chance over the bar. Johnny Coen looked to have won it only for McCarthy to save it.
And everyone breathe. At least until the replay next Sunday in Thurles.
GALWAY: 1. James Skehill; 4. John Hanbury, 3. Daithí Burke, 2. Adrian Tuohey; 5. Pádraic Mannion, 6. Gearóid McInerney, 7. Aidan Harte; 8. Johnny Coen (0-2), 9. David Burke (capt; 0-3); 10. Joseph Cooney, 11. Joe Canning (0-12, six frees, two sidelines), 15. Cathal Mannion (0-4); 13. Conor Whelan (0-3), 12. Jonathan Glynn (0-1), 14. Conor Cooney (1-1). Subs: 22. Niall Burke (0-1) for J Cooney (52 mins), 25. Jason Flynn (0-3, one free) for C Cooney (61 mins), 17. Paul Killeen for McInerney (54 mins), 18. Seán Loftus for Tuohy (extra time), 10. J Cooney for David Burke (81 mins), 26. Davey Glennon for Canning (82 mins).
CLARE: 1. Donal Tuohy; 2. Patrick O’Connor (capt.), 3. David McInerney, 4. Jack Browne; 5. Séadna Morey, 6. Conor Cleary, 7. Jamie Shanahan; 8. Colm Galvin (0-1), 9. Cathal Malone; 10. Peter Duggan (0-14, 11 frees), 11. Tony Kelly (0-3), 12. David Reidy (0-1); 13. Pádraic Collins, 14. John Conlon (0-4), 15. Shane O’Donnell (0-3). Subs: 19. David Fitzgerald (0-1) for Malone (48 mins), 18. Conor McGrath for Collins (58 mins), 23. Ian Galvin (0-2) for Reidy (61 mins), 26. Aron Shanagher (1-0) for O’Donnell (67 mins), 15. S O’Donnell for McGrath (83 mins), 21. Jason McCarthy (0-1) for Shanahan (second half, extra time),
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).