'The great thing was their work rate' - At last, Ger Loughnane has high praise for gutsy Galway
He didn’t so much as backtrack on his evisceration of Galway following their defeat to Kilkenny in the Leinster final, but Ger Loughnane certainly applauded the Tribesmen for the manner in which they overran Clare in Thurles yesterday.
The plaudits for Galway after the 2-17 to 0-17 victory over the Banner in the All Ireland SHC quarter final at Semple Stadium sounded loudly and frequently last night.
Not so much for the refinement of their hurling, but the ravenous and ferocious way they overwhelmed Davy Fitzgerald’s charges to set up consecutive semi-final showdowns with Tipperary and, potentially, another battle for the Liam MacCarthy Cup against Kilkenny, who meet Waterford in the other penultimate tie.
Indeed, Joe Canning was centred out for his display; in addition to a tally of 1-8, six of which came from frees, the Portumna man was conspicuous in how he amply performed the sweeper role behind the Galway back-line.
After Kilkenny ran out 1-26 to 0-22 winners in the Leinster decider earlier this month, Loughnane lambasted Galway’s showing, describing it as ‘gutless’ but, on RTÉ’s the Sunday Game, he was effusive in his praise of Micheál Donoghue’s side.
Furthermore, with regards to Clare, whom he led to a pair of All Ireland titles, Loughnane posited that this defeat may lead to some serious introspection.
“In fairness, they (Clare) didn’t throw themselves down - they didn’t surrender. But they were outmuscled, in the right way,” he said.
“Galway were the physically stronger team. The great thing about Galway today was number one, their defence and number two, their work rate.
“It wasn’t a spectacular display by the Galway forwards, but they worked so hard, which you have to do in the modern game, and is something they haven’t always done.
“Now Clare, beaten in the air, beaten in the tight, living off scraps and taking the wrong options up front when they got the ball. You know, it’s three years in a row that they haven’t got to Croke Park, a team that won an All Ireland.
“So it raises real questions about maybe the quality of the team and where the team is going, so big, big problems ahead for Clare.
“Their U21s were badly beaten this year and the minors haven’t won for two years, so the future is not as bright as people would have thought a few years ago.”
Conversely, Loughnane claimed that Galway had earned the right to look to the immediate future with genuine optimism, most notably because of the vast improvements to their rear guard since the loss to Kilkenny three weeks ago.
Moreover, Joe Canning and goalkeeper Colm Callanan came in for some high praise.
“For Galway, it’s onwards and upwards. I thought today was much better than I’ve seen from them in a long time – mainly because of the defence.
“They gave away 1-26 in the Leinster final, and the goalie (Callanan) was terrific today, he made one or two great saves so an awful lot of positives for Galway but big, big questions for Clare.
“You’d be more encouraged for them after today because of the work rate of every player – their bigger players – Joe Canning’s work rate was outstanding. It’s something that they haven’t always done and will give them great encouragement.”