BIG match draws tend to be anti-climatic by their nature and Sunday’s stalemate conclusion to the 2015 Galway senior hurling final at Kenny Park, Athenry comfortably fitted into that stereotype.
With a heavy pitch and strong wind militating against much fluent hurling, both Craughwell and Sarsfields will surely be relieved that they are still standing after a low scoring struggle which rarely ignited and probably left neutrals in the huge crowd feeling short-changed.
The number of unsightly rucks for possession typified the rugged nature of the weather-hit exchanges, but they also underlined the conservative tactical approach of both teams which was more about playing safe than going for broke. The use of sweepers by Sarsfields and Craughwell ensured it was a tough day for the rival forward lines.
Of the 24 points accumulated, 13 came from placed balls while there wasn’t a goal-scoring opportunity worthy of the name as the two finalists defended in numbers. It didn’t make for a great spectacle even if there was no shortage of commitment or industry on display.
Sarsfields, the surprise packets of this year’s county championship, had forced much of the pace thanks largely to having initial use of the elements and they were only headed for the first time in the 55th minute – a hardly fatal development in a match of such frugal scoring.
Subsequently, the impressively accurate Niall Morrissey nailed his eight free to force a replay and it was no more than their gritty final quarter effort deserved. They had led by 0-8 to 0-3 by the interval and possibly should have been further ahead, the legacy of some rushed shooting from out the field.
When Craughwell had drawn level by the 13th minute of the second-half, it appeared Sarsfields might be about to be over-run, but they hung in there with experienced duo Kevin Hynes and player/manager Cathal Murray rallying the troops with some defiant defending.
Having wiped out their half-time deficit in the third quarter, Craughwell must feel a little deflated that they weren’t able to push on, but the tussles for possession became even scrappier in the congested midfield area down the home stretch when the prospect of a draw loomed sharply into focus.
Both teams hardly did themselves justice, but conditions really conspired against a classic finale to a championship which again overran its scheduled conclusion. For the second consecutive year, the Galway hurling title race will be the last county championship to be completed and though the early November date obviously didn’t impact on the attendance of over 8,000, its belated timing was always going to hinder the quality of the action.
Full match report in this week’s Connacht Tribune