Nicky English: Galway show lesson learnt from Leinster final defeat

One of key differences for Galway on Sunday is that they possessed a real goal threat

There was a curious similarity in one sense to both hurling quarterfinals in that first Wexford and then Clare had a window of opportunity, at five points down with 15 minutes to go, to clamber back into contests that they had long been on the periphery of, both in terms of the hurling and the scoreboard.

In the case of Wexford it was more of a surprise based on the run of play that they were afforded that opportunity. More was expected of Clare but aside from a mini flurry of points at one stage they never threatened to win the match. Waterford and Galway were thoroughly deserving and in the end comfortable winners.

The performance will be heartening for Galway manager Micheál Donoghue because they were overly criticised after their Leinster final display. They did run out of steam against Kilkenny that day in the last 15 minutes and therefore there is an obvious improvement in the way they saw off Clare during that same period.

They didn't buckle or bend and finished comprehensively on top. When Clare briefly rallied, they knuckled down and then Cathal Mannion, Cyril Donnellan and Aidan Harte scored points that helped to maintain that impetus on the scoreboard. Joe Canning's work-rate and finishing were the inspiration.


That’s encouraging. I thought they went toe-to-toe with Kilkenny for a long time in what was the game of the championship and you could see they have addressed some of the issues that arose from the Leinster final and rectified them, not least in maintaining that drive and intensity through to the final whistle.

Fantastic hook

Galway were outstanding in defence, Daithí Burke in particular was really good, so too Pádraig Mannion, Aidan Harte while newcomer

Aidan Tuohy

had a fantastic hook that denied

Tony Kelly

a goalscoring chance.

One of the key differences for Galway – and it applies to all four teams on the day – is that they possessed a real goal threat with Conor Cooney finishing the first and Joe Canning's fantastic first touch, bettered only by the finish.

Clare, who have gone through the championship without scoring a goal, had only a couple of half chances to which Colm Callanan reacted sharply. It is interesting to note that the teams setting up with one less forward, a more accurate description rather than describing it as using a sweeper system, are not scoring goals. That's a pretty significant handicap.

When Galway are analysing this game they may reflect on the profligacy they demonstrated in the first half. They could have been ahead by a lot more than 1-10 to 0-6 at the interval and wouldn’t have been flattered in any way. The key moment was Canning’s goal immediately after the restart. What will also rankle with Clare is that they were outmuscled by their opponents throughout the game.

There’s plenty of hurling done since 2013 so for Clare there will be a fair bit of introspection after this defeat. They have been inconsistent throughout the championship and the energy they looked to have discovered in the league final dissipated quickly in the summer months.

Podge Collins isn't the effervescent presence he was, Tony Kelly and John Conlan laboured away but apart from Colm Galvin, who was superb, Clare relied on little flurries of scoring within the game; consistent in that inconsistency.

Conor McGrath’s introduction was a help but you wonder whether his team would have been better served with him starting the match; if he is fit enough to come on, it might be better to start him.

Micheál Donoghue will be happy going into the semi-final and he'll be able to draw upon his experience from his time with Tipperary. They'll be dangerous opponents because of their progression from the Munster final and their threat up front.

It was always going to be difficult for Waterford to be at their best against Wexford when factoring in the nature of the Munster final defeat. That disappointment was always going to extract a toll.

In the first match a Waterford victory was never in seriously in doubt  – Wexford did well to reduce the deficit to five points with 15-minutes remaining – but the issues that were present against Tipperary have not been satisfactorily addressed.

They never created a clear-cut goal chance, most of their scoring came from out-the-field and that high-tariff shooting from long range can be seen in a final tally of 19 wides. In many cases the shots weren’t on but had to be taken because there were no options.

The shortage of players up front forces Waterford to go on solo runs too often in the middle third of the pitch.

Austin Gleeson, an outstanding player, scored two brilliant points, whose degree of difficulty was immense because they were off the hurley at the end of solo runs. He was also the main culprit in terms of the long range shooting; but did he have an option? No.

If Waterford are to trouble Kilkenny then they have to manufacture more straightforward scoring chances, commit numbers further up the pitch, throw off the shackles and go for it in every respect; hitting on the counterpunch didn’t work the last day and is unlikely to suffice next time out either.

The Waterford backs excelled, both individually and collectively managing to keep Lee Chin and Conor McDonald quiet. Wexford were gutsy but limited, lacking strength in depth.

Waterford must travel a fair distance in performance terms and score more and offer a goal threat if they are to disprove the critics and offer a meaningful challenge to Kilkenny.