Galway’s mental toughness and class help to tame Cats

Galway's Cathal Mannion gets to the ball ahead of Kilkenny's Paddy Deegan and Conor Fogarty during Sunday's Leinster hurling final replay at Semple Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Galway's Cathal Mannion gets to the ball ahead of Kilkenny's Paddy Deegan and Conor Fogarty during Sunday's Leinster hurling final replay at Semple Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

SIX years ago to the day last Sunday, on a wet, miserable July afternoon in Croke Park, Galway annihilated Kilkenny in the Leinster final by ten points, 2-21 to 2-11.

They led 2-11 to 0-1 after half an hour and for the Galway fans in attendance, of which there weren’t many, it was probably the greatest half of hurling they had ever seen the men in maroon give.

What made that first half display so memorable was the fact that no one within the county, or beyond, saw it coming, not least Kilkenny.

What we saw in Semple Stadium for the first half this past Sunday was something akin to that. It was breathtaking to witness, but it was different to 2012.

We wouldn’t allow ourselves to believe it because of the opposition, but supporters knew deep-down that Galway had the tools to dismantle this Kilkenny side.

Expectations were higher, and with that comes added pressure, but moments after the final whistle, around about half past four last Sunday, the Semple Stadium field flooded with maroon and white as the Leinster final saw its first pitch invasion in years.

Questions were asked of this Galway team during the week and boy were they answered emphatically as the Tribesmen left the Cats to return home with their tails between their legs after being humbled by seven-points.

It’s hard to judge for sure if Kilkenny were operating at a lower level than they had a week previously, perhaps slightly, but this was all about Galway, who were better in every single facet of the game this time around.

Every man, woman and child in the country knew that Kilkenny were the ones who played somewhere close to their potential in the drawn match and that is why the finger was being pointed at Galway. Why weren’t they operating at that level?

Galway looked like a team struggling to make the transition from mid-gears to fifth and sixth in the drawn game, but they found that link in the week between and went about letting Kilkenny know just that in the early stages when opening up a 1-9 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes.

When Galway were on fire, they were untouchable. Right from minute one, the attitude and application of the Tribesmen had upped tenfold. 0-18 was Galway’s total score for 75 odd minutes of action against Kilkenny the first day out. By the 33rd minute this time around, they had notched up 1-15.

Over the course of the 70 minutes, Galway’s starting six forwards notched 1-18 from play compared to Kilkenny’s 1-3, a startling statistic which sums up the gap between the sides.

The big change prior to throw-in of course was that of Johnny Glynn coming in in place of Conor Cooney who, by his own standards, underperformed in the drawn game but still, few could have envisaged the St Thomas’ man being omitted.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.