Five things we learned from Galway's All ireland win over Waterford
Galway are the All-Ireland hurling champions for the first time in 29 years. Here's what we learned from their absorbing win over a brave Waterford team.
1. Galway's nerve holds
Galway proved they had the nerve needed to win an All-Ireland, after a fierce challenge from Waterford, although they had to endure many nervous passages. They’ve had to carry the burden of favouritism since winning the League in a blinding demolition of the All-Ireland champions from 2016, Tipperary. Going into the final they had cleared every obstacle since then, sweeping to a comfortable Leinster Championship victory with wins over Dublin (14-point margin), Offaly (19 points) and Wexford (nine points). They also showed they could handle the demands of an All-Ireland semi final against a rejuvenated Tipperary that went right to the wire. This was their second final in three years. That experience counted for something. After losing seven All-Ireland finals since their last win in 1988, they finally closed the deal.
2. Criticism of Waterford's scoring power was wrong
Claims that Waterford could defend in numbers and still run up big score tallies after their semi final win over Cork (when they hit 4-19) were overstated as they neglected, or conveniently ignored, that Cork played most of the final 20 minutes with one man less on the field. The way Waterford set up has an obvious impact on their scoring return. They managed to avoid conceding a goal, and got two of their own, but that tally still fell short. Their second goal, from Kieran Bennett, was a gift. Maurice Shanahan came on as a target for high ball in the second half but they couldn’t get through for the third goal needed to save the match.
3. Joe Canning no longer the best player without an All-Ireland
Joe Canning now has that elusive medal. Since breaking into the Galway team in 2008, with much advance fanfare, Canning (29 next month) has been asked to shoulder much of Galway’s scoring responsibility. Like other Galway players of the last 30 years, the more the years went on the more the fear grew that Canning might join that great majority of hurlers who pass through their careers without the privilege of winning an All-Ireland. This was his coronation. He crowned the occasion with an excellent performance.
4. Austin Gleeson fails to live up to his potential
Could Austin Gleeson save his best until last and influence an All-Ireland final? Unfortunately for the young Mount Sion man, this final passed him by. He did not exert the kind influence on the match expected of a player of his reputation and failed to score.
5. The tactical battle was intriguing
Who would win the tactical battle? Galway hit Waterford with a string of early points from out the field, giving an exhibition of clinical finishing, but Kevin Moran’s fifth minute goal undid much of their good work, and Kieran Bennett’s second, helped by a goalkeeping error, rocked Galway’s confidence. Waterford managed to take the lead in the second half for a short spell and for the last five minutes, when they were four points down, they went man-on-man to try and find a goal, pushing more players forward. This time Galway did not let them through. Galway’s use of the sweeper, with Aidan Harte the spare man, did not work well in the first half and their defence was badly exposed for Moran’s goal. They tightened up after half time and had a better return when they introduced Niall Burke for an ineffective Jonathan Glynn. Ultimately, Waterford’s strategy of playing the percentages did not work.