Inside Track with John McIntyre
GALWAY hurling supporters were put through the emotional wringer at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Bouts of depression twice giving way to hope before their unlikely comeback victory over Waterford in an absorbing if error-prone league quarter-final had local fans dancing in the aisles in Salthill.
By any stretch of the imagination what unfolded in the second of Sunday’s big double bill was a real head-scratcher. Galway have often mixed the good with the bad in the one game before, but in this encounter they took the respective extremes to new levels. Waterford were nearly as erratic and they have the added problem of now coming to terms with blowing a ten-point lead.
For years now, Galway have been accused of having a soft centre, and lacking leadership and bottle when things start running against them. Well, we can finally wave goodbye to that lazy commentary after what unfolded at Pearse Stadium at the weekend. Not once but twice, Galway were given every reason to wave the white flag in surrender and fall into a hole.
They were horribly off the pace at the start of both halves and turned over possession far too often and too readily. Perhaps, like the footballers in the opening game, the fact that Waterford were travelling with a weakened line up sub-consciously lulled them into a false sense of security. Certainly, Galway weren’t switched on or tuned in – almost fatally so.
In the circumstances, to pull the game out of fire was a commendable achievement, but Galway would have no league semi-final to look forward to against Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday week – the Tribesmen lost the toss for home advantage – only for the exploits of Joe Canning, who really stepped up to the plate when the crisis was at its deepest.
The Portumna clubman was terrific; almost single-handily giving Galway something to fight for before the team itself almost belatedly realised their responsibilities to the maroon jersey. The last 20 minutes of action showed why the Tribesmen remain strong contenders for this year’s All-Ireland title, but earlier we also saw the kind of slackness and chaos which still makes them vulnerable at the top level.
Still, any day you get a result after being ten points down early in the second-half takes a bit of doing. What Galway managed on Sunday should do wonders for morale and their self-belief, but they will also have to address why it’s taking the team so long to get going. The same thing happened to them against Limerick the previous Sunday and bad habits can prove hard to break.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.