ANOTHER nerve-jangling hurling battle in a summer peppered with them. This All-Ireland semi-final replay at Semple Stadium in Sunday was almost a carbon copy of the drawn match eight days previously, only this time we had a result as Galway finally managed to get over the line against their gallant Clare rivals.
It was an almighty close thing, however, the champions departing Thurles clinging onto the McCarthy Cup by their fingertips after the Banner men spurned a potentially glorious match-winning goal chance from Aron Shanagher in the 68th minute which would have left Clare on the brink of a big final collision with the neighbours on their Southern side, Limerick.
How Galway were again pushed to the wire is almost hard to fathom, at least in the context of another blistering start which, similar to the drawn semi-final, saw them establishing a nine-point lead during the first-half. Clare may have been braced for this early blitz and had Colm Galvin operating as a sweeper from the start, but they were soon floundering in front of a huge crowd of 44,286.
Sometimes, there isn’t safety in numbers and the Munster finalists were again staring down the barrel of a hiding when falling 1-9 to 0-3 behind after just 21 minutes. All over the field, Galway were dominant and, if anything, were sharper and hungrier than during the corresponding period of the teams’ epic stalemate encounter.
We were almost feeling sorry for Clare such was the gulf in standard between the teams. Their players were being swept away in a maroon tidal wave and the way the match was developing, it was almost impossible to imagine that Galway would end up scrapping for their lives in a thrilling finale.
A smartly-taken Jonathan Glynn goal in the 21st minute had put them nine points clear and it was an accurate reflection of the exchanges up to that juncture. There was only one team in it as Galway served up another early storm which was symbolised, in particular, by the energy and influence of Adrian Tuohey, Aidan Harte, David Burke, Joe Canning, Joseph Cooney and Conor Whelan.
After failing to finish Clare off from a similar position at Croke Park, it appeared a safe presumption that Galway wouldn’t spurn the same opportunity in the replay but, once again, they didn’t drive their advantage home and left wasteful Clare hanging on. They almost paid the ultimate penalty.
See full report, analysis and quotes in Tribune Sport.
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