We have no desire to be a killjoy after Galway’s thrilling triumph in Sunday’s tumultuous All-Ireland hurling semi-final, but the job of ending the county’s nearly 30-year championship famine isn’t done yet and whether it’s Cork or Waterford they face in the final, a huge psychological barrier will still have to be overcome.
In six previous All-Ireland finals against the Rebels, Galway have come up short every time, while their championship record in opposition to Waterford is appalling altogether – and almost beggars belief. The Tribesmen have played the Déise ten times and lost them all. It’s surely one of hurling’s great anomalies.
Of course, there is also the matter of how difficult Galway find it to win All-Ireland titles in the first place, having lost six finals since the county last delivered the Liam McCarthy Cup West of the Shannon in 1988. We are just trying to keep a sense a sense of perspective, even if in my hearts of hearts, I expect David Burke to be climbing the stands of the Hogan Stand in triumph on September 3.
What a game we had at Croke Park last Sunday – Galway standing up heroically to the closest possible scrutiny by a Tipperary team which threw everything at them in a gallant defence of their crown. The tension was unbearable in the closing minutes as rival players were not prepared to die full stop, never mind with their boots on.
Ultimately, it was one of the sport’s most revered players who came up with an almost impossible winner. On the sideline about 55 yards out, under pressure, and the destiny of the match in his hands, Joe Canning’s powerful wrists somehow swung over a point from the ages to finally break Tipperary’s hearts. It was the perfect finale for Galway in a terrific battle for supremacy.
That is the main reason why Canning was my man of the match. Sure, he was on the margins in the opening-half and missed some chances, but he had a troubled preparation and, understandably, took a while to get to the pace of the furious exchanges. Yet, when Galway needed him most, Canning stepped up to the plate in no uncertain terms.
Apart from that outrageous winning score, he scored two other points from play as well, together with nailing an inspirational free from deep inside own half in the 67th minute. Canning had also landed a rousing sideline cut before half-time, and without him, Galway would not have beaten Tipperary on Sunday.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.