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Galway finally shake off Waterford to end 29 years of hurt

Déise find one too good as men from the west edge an epic to be crowned kings of summer

Galway’s Conor Whelan and Jonathan Glynn challenge Barry Coughlan and Tadhg De Burca in the air during the All-Ireland SHC final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Galway 0-26 Waterford 2-17

It ended with Joe Canning bending to take a sideline cut, killing the last bit of time the hurling season had in it. No sooner had the ball gone airborne than referee Fergal Horgan blew the long whistle and Canning dropped to his knees. The roar he sent up into the Cusack Stand was the ghosts of 29 years being put to rest. Galway are All-Ireland champions and the least you could say for them was that it was rarely in doubt.

They won by three points in the end but the weight of their superiority ought to have had them out the gate with a little more to spare than that. Waterford were obdurate throughout and couldn’t be faulted for effort. But Galway started better, finished better and got more out of their key performers. That usually does the trick.

“This is what it’s all about,” said manager Micháel Donoghue on the pitch afterwards. “These boys are a special bunch. Their application and attitude is second to none and has been second to none the whole way through. We said at it from the start - we wanted a Galway team that Galway supporters can come out for. Whether they’re here in Croke Park to day or anywhere around the world, this is for Galway people everywhere.”

Galway captain David Burke lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Waterford can have no real complaints. They were unlucky to lose Kieran Bennett to injury in the first half, bringing Maurice Shanahan into the game before the usual 50th minute. But if anything, Shanahan actually gave them a bit more oomph and direction in attack and it wasn’t a move they suffered from unduly.

Galway were on top right from the gun and by any measure, Waterford were blessed to be still in this at the break. At times in the first half, they were like the kid who finds the cheat code for the next level of a video game and uses it instead of putting in the hours to get there by his own efforts. Not only did they need goals to keep them in it, they needed them gifted to them by Galway.

Kevin Moran celebrates scoring the game’s opening goal. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

A missing sweeper for Kevin Moran’s, a howler from Colm Callanan for Kieran Bennett’s. Neither were in the Waterford gameplan but they were more critical when they came than all the hours of work, thought and energy that had gone into their journey to get here. Galway thundered into this final, blitzing Waterford for nine points in the first 15 minutes without a wide. They were four up after four minutes and Waterford were gasping for air.

Joe Canning split the posts after 23 seconds, Johnny Coen followed up with a scything run and finish, Joseph Cooney skinned Darragh Fives for a winkled score, Cathal Mannion skipped in to feed off scraps from Johnny Glynn. Only that Moran’s goal arrived when it did, we might have been looking at a repeat of 2008.

But with the Galway sweeper Aidan Harte somehow marked absent, Moran stole in for the first Waterford goal after five minutes. And though Galway reacted well, pinging five of the next seven points, it was another brain-freeze in their defence that allowed Waterford to stay breathing. Kieran Bennett launched a long ball into the Galway square and Callanan misjudged the bounce to allow it trickle in.

The upshot was that Galway got to half-time only a point ahead when they really should have had a cushion of somewhere in the region of five. And when Pauric Mahony came out like a man possessed in the second half, scoring Waterford’s first five points after the restart, Waterford had a foothold in the game out of nowhere. Jamie Barron was forcing himself on the game,Tadhg de Búrca was mopping up everything in defence and Galway were wobbling for the first time all day.

In the end, it was a couple of substitutes who got them going again. Niall Burke came on for Glynn and cracked two points. Moreover, he started to invade de Búrca’s airspace and headspace, occupying the Waterford sweeper in a way Glynn had failed to. Jason Flynn similarly stuck a couple of points of his own and with the clock starting to tick down, Galway were squeezing the life out of Waterford.

Joe Canning holds off Pauric Mahony. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Derek McGrath’s side needed everything to go right to stay in the game by this point but instead they started spilling wides. A couple of long frees, a sideline cut, a snapshot on the turn from Moran. They were high-percentage shots but they needed to go over. When they didn’t, Galway were away and gone. They need never mention 1988 again.

“It would be remiss of me,” said captain David Burke in his acceptance speech, “not to mention the players and people who went before me and us. The blood, sweat, tears and hurt they put in over the last 29 years. This is for clubs, this is for families, this is for the people of Galway.”

Can’t say fairer than that.

GALWAY: 1. Colm Callanan; 2. Adrian Tuohy, 3. Daithi Burke, 4. John Hanbury; 5. Pádraic Mannion, 6. Gearóid McInerney, 7. Aidan Harte; 8. J Coen (0-1), 9. David Burke (capt; 0-4); 10. Joseph Cooney (0-2), 11. Joe Canning (0-9, six frees, one line ball),15. Cathal Mannion (0-2); 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; 18. Kieran Bennett (1-0), 5. Tadhg de Búrca, 7. Philip Mahony; 8. Jamie Barron (0-2), 10. Kevin Moran (capt; 1-1); 12. Jake Dillon, 6. Austin Gleeson, 11. Pauric Mahony (0-11, eight frees); 14. Michael Walsh (0-1), 13. Shane Bennett , 15. Darragh Fives. 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)