A landmark day for Galway and this team could be here to stay

FINAL JOY: Hurling Committee Chairman Michael Larkin, Joe Canning, Galway team manager, Micheál Donoghue, and John McGann, County Board Treasurer, in jubilant form after defeating Waterford in Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park.
FINAL JOY: Hurling Committee Chairman Michael Larkin, Joe Canning, Galway team manager, Micheál Donoghue, and John McGann, County Board Treasurer, in jubilant form after defeating Waterford in Sunday's All-Ireland hurling final at Croke Park.

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Let’s us never hear about Galway’s supposedly soft centre again. Ever since their league final dismantling of Tipperary, some critics have been waiting in the long grass for the Tribesmen to implode when the stakes got higher. It’s in their DNA, they say . . . the Westerners tending to buckle in the pressure moments of big games.

Well, there wasn’t a trace of self-doubt in Galway’s ranks in 2017. They answered every question thrown their way as a unified force from the West swept all before them. They rampaged their way to the league title, did the same in the Leinster championship and were still standing after demanding struggles against both Tipperary and Waterford at the business end of the championship

Galway are hurling’s top team and they now have the Liam McCarthy Cup to prove it, ending nearly three decades of big-day torment and, in the process, persistent accusations of failing to transform many All-Ireland winning minor and U21 teams into all-conquering forces at senior level. That divide has finally been bridged.

Last Sunday in Croke Park was a pulsating occasion, with Jeffrey Lynskey’s superbly turned-out crop of minors setting the standard for the greatest afternoon in the history of Galway hurling. Two All-Ireland titles in the space of four enthralling hours will live long in the memory as the county celebrates a momentous achievement.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Galway. They initially threatened to blitz Waterford such was the power, pace and quality of the hurling; had to regroup after the concession of two first-half goals against the run of play; and then had their character tested to the limit when Waterford, a team they have never overcome in the championship, took the lead for the first time in the 43rd minute.

Sure, Galway made mistakes and took wrong options, but you never once got the impression that the weight of history was on their shoulders. No player backed away or ever looked a beaten docket. The team possessed inner-resolve and their sheer physicality helped to wear down a Waterford team which contributed hugely to a memorable occasion.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.