Eugene McGee: Galway a model for how football should be played
Anybody who was present in Croke Park on Saturday, with the exception of Cork people, must have been sorry that Galway did not snatch a victory against the Rebels.
The reason? Because the sort of football played by Galway was as near to a model of how Gaelic football should be played as we are ever likely to see, and for that reason it was exceptional.
By comparison with what we watched in the other two games on Saturday – and most other games in this year's championship – this was fine wine compared to stale beer.
Galway once again banished the nightmare of their defeat by Mayo in May and played brilliantly for most of the game.
Their tackling was crisp and effective, mainly without fouling, their movement with the ball by foot and hand was decisive and was invariably going forward as opposed to the lateral passing so beloved of other teams and so detested by followers everywhere. Throw in exemplary sportsmanship from both sides and a dramatic finish, and this game will be remembered as one of the best of 2013 so far.
Sadly for Galway, football matches are not won only by style and substance. Other factors come into play, such as the experience of opponents, the strength of the opposing panel and the individual skills of the other team.
Cork were a bit ahead in most of those areas, most notably the physical battles and the quality of subs available.
When you can throw in players of the calibre of Paddy Kelly, Paul Kerrigan, Paudie Kissane and Donncha O'Connor, all recent All-Ireland winners, then your opponents are left gasping for air when the game is being decided in the final quarter.
That is the unfortunate fate that befell Galway as they watched Cork score a fisted goal from Aidan Walsh and points from Pearse O'Neill, O'Connor, Kelly and Ciaran Sheehan to transform a three-point deficit with 12 minutes left into a four-point lead in the 70th minute.
That last point by Cork turned out to be crucial because in the dying seconds Michael Meehan scored a wonder goal from a 13-metre free, which should win Goal of the Year as he struck the ball to the roof of the net past a wall of six-foot Corkmen.
Galway, though complete outsiders, led for most of the game through great scores from Meehan, Sean Armstrong and midfielder Paul Conroy, and their goalkeeper Manus Breathnach made several brilliant saves. But inevitably the power and strength of so many Cork players in the middle third of the field took its toll on a younger and lighter Galway team, and that is what lost the game for them.
As always, Cork played hot and cold. Their awesome selection of talent often looked cumbersome and not wildly interested at times, but when they turned on the style they looked unbeatable.
Certainly Dublin manager Jim Gavin has a lot to ponder this week.
Understandable immaturity from Galway cost them dearly, such as some over optimistic shooting efforts, but they will learn.