One of the worrying aspects leaving Kenny Park in Athenry last Sunday following the Galway intermediate hurling semi-final double-header was the extremely disappointing standard of both contests. Indeed, if this was the best this grade can offer, it gives rise to deeper concerns in Galway hurling.
The easy thing would be put it down to the occasion or what was at stake for all four clubs – by the way, this is not a criticism of the four semi-finalists themselves – but, perhaps, it is time to address one of the skeletons in the closet. So, let’s call it as it is.
It’s not a coincidence that no Galway team has ever won the All-Ireland intermediate club title and it’s high time for the County Committee or Hurling Committee or whoever the book has been passed to, to step up to the mark and address a fundamental flaw in the structure. That is the imbalance of the number of teams competing in the senior, intermediate and junior ‘A’ grades.
Currently, there are 22 hurling teams contesting the senior championship with just 14 contesting the intermediate grade and 21 outfits fighting it out for the junior A’ title. The fact of the matter is the intermediate grade is suffering and it is only time before it has a negative impact on the senior and junior ‘A’ competitions as well. If it has not already.
Cooney and McInerney pass on winning mentality to sons
When Galway last won back-to-back All-Ireland senior hurling titles in 1987 and 1988, Joe Cooney and Gerry McInerney and their team-mates were giants living in a world of ordinary men. There was no social media, yet they were iconic figures known the width and breadth of the country.
As former masters of the game, they still enjoy cult status. That will never change although both were more than happy to pass on the torch when the Tribesmen ended the 29-year famine for the Liam McCarthy Cup last September.
What made it even more enjoyable was that both had sons involved in that historic success – Joseph Cooney and Gearoid McInerney – as they will have again today. As they recounted earlier this week, it was, in some small way, like getting to relive those glory days again.
GMc: Ah, it was. It was mighty. There was a bit of ‘been there, done that’ and it was good to be able to give them that bit of advice. If they ask your advice, at least you might know. So, it was good.
JC: You would enjoy it a bit more when you are looking in at it rather than being caught up in it. It was even nicer because you could take it all in. And you would have relived some of the memories from our own time as well. So, we got to be both sides of the fence. It was a relief really though (last year). When we won it, I also remember it was a pure relief. You would never think at any time that you might get to tog out in an All-Ireland final at Croke Park – and win one. We were able to do that and we were awful lucky that way. That we were there ourselves and then to have the lads involved last year was great. It really was something else. Unbelievable.
SG: Times have changed since those All-Ireland victories in the 1980s – no more so than in hurling. Are you blown away with the amount of sports science going into a team’s preparation now?
JC: To a certain point, it has changed completely but, at the same time, when you hit the pitch and the ball is thrown in, it is the same. It is about the ball. You have to go and win your area, win the ball, get your scores and stop scores. It all comes down to those 70 minutes. That is the way it is. So, it hasn’t changed that way.
GMc: I suppose, whatever was going on at the time, you were going to do it. And it was different times when we were playing. You had to go with the flow. That was the way it was. It was a man’s game – and still is too. You still have to stand up for yourself and if you don’t you will be walked over. No matter what you are at now, be it hurling or life, you have to stand up for yourself every day.
SG: From your own experiences in ‘87 and ‘88, how difficult is it to put titles back-to-back?
JC: To keep yourself right for the two years was the thing. Probably, you might think you were going better than you were and you might take the foot off for a small bit but you can’t afford to do that now. I don’t think these lads are doing it now. They have been fairly consistent and they are hard to beat.
I suppose, it is hard to keep it right when you are after winning it; every team is trying to beat you and pick holes in you. So, you have to be able to stand up to that and that is the difference when you are up there. Everyone wants to knock you and it gets harder and harder and harder.
For me, though, there is a great mix in this team and you need that when you are playing. We had a good mix of players and these guys seem to be the same as well. Also, when you are after winning one, you will get it into your head too that you are harder to beat. That is the way these lads are now and we were probably the same.
SG: Do you ever feel disappointed that the three-in-a-row didn’t materialise, particularly given much of it was down to circumstances – such as the referee – outside your control?
GMc: We probably took our eye off the ball as well. We could have beaten them (Tipperary, 1989 All-Ireland semi-final) – referee and all.
JC: There was not a whole pile in that game . . .
GMc: No Joe, there was not. 1989, the refereeing was putrid but you could say the refereeing in 1990 was no better. He gave frees for nothing. But we took our eyes off the ball in 1990.
SG: You had an unbelievable first half against Cork in the 1990 All-Ireland final Joe, so for you it must have been even more disappointing?
JC: That was just how the game went. We didn’t get as many opportunities in the second half. But they were definitely two matches and two years that we left it behind us.
GMc: But this team is far more focused. They have it upstairs. They have that mental strength. There is no messing and it is tunnel vision. If we were minded like that we would have gone on and won as many titles as Kilkenny. I mean, you have to pull in the reins an odd time but, in fairness to these lads, it is very professional and very well run.
SG: Why you think you might have lost focus? Was it a West of Ireland thing?
GMc: We were always confident going up. Weren’t we Joe, in fairness? It wasn’t upstairs.
JC: No, but you have to take your chances when you are there. It doesn’t come around that often. You will get a few years and that is it. You have to do it. The last one we won was in ’88 and we were still young enough but we didn’t win one again until last year. We thought, surely to God, we would get another one before we finished. So, when you are there, you have to make the best of it.
Galway teams named for All-Ireland hurling double header
There is one change on the Galway Senior team that meets Waterford in Sunday All Ireland Final. Ardrahan’s Johnny Glynn starts his first game since the 2015 All Ireland Final with Niall Burke being named on the bench. Glynn came on against Tipperary in the All Ireland Semi Final.
Elsewhere, the Team is along expected lines with Daithi Burke and Gearoid McInerney manning the central defensive positions, while Johnny Coen and David Burke continue their midfield partnership.
Joe Canning and Conor Cooney will operate at centre and full forward respectively, with Cathal Mannion, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan all joining Johnny Glynn in attack.
1 Colm Callanan
2 Adrian Tuohy
3 Daithi Burke
4 John Hanbury
5 Padraig Mannion
6 Gearoid McInerney
7 Aidan Harte
8 Johnny Coen
9 David Burke Captain
10 Joseph Cooney
11 Joe Canning
12 Johnny Glynn
13 Conor Whelan
14 Conor Cooney
15 Cathal Mannion
Meanwhile, the Galway Minor hurling team to play Cork in Sunday’s All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final has been announced.
There is one change from the side that beat Kilkenny in the semi-final with Cappataggle’s Donal Mannion coming in to the team in place of Conor Molly.
Throw-in in Croke Park for the Minor final is 1.15pm.
The team in full is:
- Darach Fahy (Ardrahan)
- Darren Morrissey (Sarsfields )
- Daniel Loftus (Turloughmore)
- Caimin Killeen (Loughrea)
- Ronan Glennon (Mullagh)
- Conor Caulfield (Kilconieron)
- Mark Gill (Castlegar)
- John Fleming (Meelick Eyrecourt )
- Conor Fahey (Padraig Pearses)
- Sean Bleahene (Ahascragh-Fohenagh)
- Conor Walsh (Turloughmore)
- Ben Moran (Tynagh-Abbey Duniry)
- Donal Mannion (Cappataggle)
- Jack Canning (Portumna)
- Martin McManus (Loughrea)
Galway’s attacking arsenal can prove decisive against Tipp
GALWAY manager Anthony Cunningham may be downplaying the fact that his charges face Tipperary in Sunday’s All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final in Croke Park rather that Semple Stadium – where they clashed in the qualifiers last year – but deep down it must make him feel a little more at ease.
When the sides met in front of a partisan Tipperary crowd in the qualifiers in Thurles last year, the Tribesmen were entering a GAA ground they had not only little joy in previously but they were also facing a home side who practically eat, drink and sleep hurling at the same venue.
This time round, things are different. Galway are coming off the back of a quarter-final victory – breaking the Semple Stadium hoodoo – while they also make what now has become a routine trip to Croke Park since their move into Leinster seven years ago.
“It makes no difference if you are in Thurles or Croke Park – they are fantastic pitches – but a Saturday evening down in Tipperary a week after the previous match was obviously tough. It was in front of their own crowd – their own supporters – and it was down on the pitch they train on every day.
“So, they do have an advantage. Dublin footballers might say the same as well. It is an advantage when it is a pitch you play on every day and you get to know and get used to. The dimensions of it are that bit bigger, there is no doubt, but it is a beautiful place to play.”
In this regard, the shoe will be on the other foot this Sunday. In years gone by, their automatic qualification for the All-Ireland semi-final provided what, sadly, was often just an annual pilgrimage to Croke Park. It’s different these days and, already this year, they have lined out three times at GAA headquarters.
“Yeah, and even with the Walsh Cup there, it was important for us to play the match in Dublin. Lads like that. The pitch is as good there in February as most pitches are now in the Summer. Everyone overlooks that at times. It is a fantastic stadium.”
At any rate, the Galway camp will travel to Croke Park in fine fettle. Although long term injury concern Conor Cooney is reportedly still a couple of weeks out from making his return, David Collins (hamstring) and David Burke (neck/shoulder) have both returned to full fitness. Captain Collins did not start the quarter-final against Cork, although he was introduced, and his return will cause a few selection headaches for management entering Sunday’s fixture.
As for Burke, he was forced to withdraw with an injury against the Leesiders but his hurling up to that point was sharp enough that it should merit his inclusion in the starting line-up again for the Tipp clash
Full preview in this week’s City Tribune.