“They didn’t do it with­out mis­takes but Gal­way were wor­thy win­ners and have proved them­selves a se­ri­ous team.” – Nicky English

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Front Page - Nicky English

An ex­cel­lent and con­sis­tent sea­son by Gal­way ended up with the All-Ire­land. It was a de­served win and the way it hap­pened wasn’t un­pre­dictable but at times they made hard work of it. They had to prove they had the nerve to win it in the end and that was the only ques­tion mark over them af­ter an anx­ious semi-fi­nal against Tip­per­ary.

That was tested be­cause af­ter a bril­liant start, they con­ceded a poor goal to Kevin Mo­ran, a calami­tous goal to Kieran Ben­nett and nearly did it again at the start of the sec­ond half. Then they found them­selves be­hind with 20 min­utes to go and still were able to swing it back.

Their de­fence tight­ened, their for­wards started to win ball again and their subs made a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, not just scor­ing – Niall Burke and Ja­son Flynn got two points each – but win­ning mas­sively im­por­tant ball.

Burke came on, called a puck-out on him­self, won the ball and a free and gave a huge lift to the team.

Ul­ti­mately their power and range of scor­ers com­bined with a men­tal tough­ness down the stretch to hang in there and get back into the game was im­pres­sive. They didn’t do it with­out mis­takes but they were wor­thy win­ners and have proved them­selves a se­ri­ous team, well man­aged by Micheál Donoghue. That’s the en­tire pack­age we’ve seen from them this year.

They looked as­sured and com­posed in all of their matches with the ex­cep­tion of the semi-fi­nal against Tipp and whereas there was the odd hint of that in the fi­nal they were able to re­gain com­po­sure when they needed to, which is a tribute to man­age­ment.

They started su­perbly, us­ing the ball well and tak­ing Tadhg de Búrca out of the match with smart use of ball and long-range scores. David Burke was trans­formed from the hes­i­tant per­for­mance in the semi-fi­nal and for a while they were scor­ing at will.

The goals rocked them and re­ally tested their re­solve.

Bat­ter­ing ram

Try­ing to use Johnny Glynn as a bat­ter­ing ram didn’t work for them. Af­ter the sec­ond goal hit them they went away from the open­ing tac­tics of smart move­ment and clever use of the ball and started to lorry the ball in on top of Glynn, who fought man­fully al­though out­num­bered but the ball wasn’t stick­ing.

As a re­sult Gal­way’s play in the sec­ond quar­ter was static and one-di­men­sional.

Tak­ing Glynn off wasn’t so much a change of per­son­nel as a re­ver­sion to the tac­tics that had worked so well ear­lier. Burke and Flynn came on and of­fered move­ment, cre­ated space and David Burke popped up on the Cu­sack Stand side for a point. They had more free­dom as a re­sult of the changes.

The pat­terns they had cre­ated up front all year were re­stored and where Cathal Mannion had drifted out and Glynn had been iso­lated, Niall Burke and Flynn pushed up and helped recre­ate the dy­namic of six strong, ball-win­ning for­wards mov­ing around the at­tack.

Maybe Water­ford were tir­ing be­cause Gal­way were im­mensely strong and in great shape. That at­tri­tion had to have an ef­fect and you could see it with Water­ford’s more in­flu­en­tial play­ers. Jamie Bar­ron wasn’t as ob­vi­ous and the fall-off was par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able with Kevin Mo­ran, who had been out­stand­ing.

He missed a cru­cial point to put Water­ford two ahead and I sus­pect that was down to fa­tigue. Ei­ther way, it was a sig­nif­i­cant miss and Gal­way fin­ished far the stronger.

Their de­fence needed to step up as well. They were slow to the break at times even when out­num­ber­ing the Water­ford at­tack­ers but just as against Tip­per­ary when they re­ally drove into the op­po­si­tion in the fi­nal 10 min­utes, they raised their game when it re­ally mat­tered.

Look­ing at the con­tri­bu­tion of Joe Can­ning ver­sus the con­tri­bu­tion of

Tak­ing Glynn off wasn’t so much a change of per­son­nel as a re­ver­sion to the tac­tics that had worked so well ear­lier

Austin Glee­son in the pocket po­si­tion of the team’s re­spec­tive con­duc­tors, you could see the hard yards that Can­ning has had to make in de­feat over the years stand­ing to him. He was flawless on the frees, pointed a line ball from an area where Glee­son missed a sim­i­lar op­por­tu­nity.

Sym­pa­thies

The over­all or­ches­tra­tion of us­ing the ball well and do­ing what needed to be done was in con­trast to a game that never re­ally ran for Glee­son.

I’m not sure why he was tak­ing that free from his own half at the end when he was needed in the square with Mau­rice Shana­han to try and make some­thing hap­pen or win a penalty or some­thing.

I know only too well what that’s like for some­one in a first All-Ire­land fi­nal so he has my sym­pa­thies. It’s a harsh les­son but can be an in­valu­able one.

Re­flect­ing on that ex­pe­ri­ence for me in the 1988 fi­nal called to mind the hurler who was man of the match that day, the late Tony Keady. I be­lieve the feel­ings re­leased by his un­timely death were also a pow­er­ful driv­ing force for Gal­way on such an emo­tional day.

In a way it was just like the 1980s be­cause I be­lieve that Gal­way found their re­sponse from the ex­pe­ri­ence of los­ing two All-Ire­land fi­nals. There comes a stage when you wonder will you ever win the Liam MacCarthy. I think they dealt with that go­ing down the stretch this year.

They are well de­serv­ing champions and have looked the part since the cham­pi­onship started.

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