Wednesday 22 November 2017

John Mullane: When you do something like the Galway players did last year, you have to back it up

Cillian Buckley stretches to prevent Galway from scoring. Photo: Sportsfile
Cillian Buckley stretches to prevent Galway from scoring. Photo: Sportsfile

John Mullane

I can't think of too many happy endings after player heaves result in the removal of inter-county managers.

Michael Bond's arrival in Offaly back in 1998 was arguably the last one, when he took over from Michael 'Babs' Keating and masterminded All-Ireland glory.

The Galway hurlers voted Anthony Cunningham out last year but Micheál Donoghue has endured a baptism of fire in 2016.

On what I saw at Croke Park yesterday, Galway won't be winning an All-Ireland title and if they bow out early, I'd be on the phone to Derek McGrath if I was Donoghue.

I'd ask Derek, after his difficult first year in charge, how he managed to turn things around.

This is still new to Donoghue and he might have to go down the same road as Derek and dispense with some of the older players in his squad.

When you do something like the Galway players did last year, you have to back it up.

There will be plenty of disappointed fans waking up this morning but a section will say that the players got what they deserved in yesterday's Leinster final.

The harsh reality is that it's going to be a tough few days for a lot of these Galway players.

Read More: Same old tale as Kilkenny take control

But I suspect there are others in that group who would have wanted Anthony to stay on - and will feel that the latest collapse against Kilkenny wasn't their fault.

This was a carbon copy of last year's All-Ireland final - Galway three points up at half-time before capitulating.

Surely they should have known what was coming early in the second half - and they should have been ready for it.

What makes it all the more puzzling is that they had a great start and got their match-ups spot on.

Padraig Mannion went into corner-back on Eoin Larkin, Daithi Burke was full-back on TJ Reid, and had an outstanding first half, John Hanbury went to centre-back on Colin Fennelly, and Gearoid McInerney started wing-back on Walter Walsh.

Kilkenny offered a lacklustre first-half performance and Galway had Cathal Mannion and Conor Whelan on song up front.

I suggested that Cathal Mannion on Paul Murphy might have been a mismatch but it was quite the opposite and Mannion picked Murphy's pockets for a number of scores.

Galway dominated from the 20th to 30th minutes in particular but gave away a couple of silly, soft frees leading up to half-time and allowed Kilkenny to narrow the gap.

Still, Padraig Mannion caught a great ball over Eoin Larkin's head in the 33rd minute and you could see that he, and the Galway crowd, were pumped up.

But Donoghue is new to the inter-county scene and his opposite number, Brian Cody, didn't panic. He brought in Richie Hogan and John Power, who were massive influences on the game, but Galway's defensive shape altered too, and not for the better.

Read More: Relentless Cats just keep rolling on with the same punchline to the same story

Kilkenny dictated those terms, moving TJ to the wing, Walsh to the corner and McInerney, not a natural corner-back, went with him.

Daithi Burke went to wing-back when he'd been doing brilliantly at full-back.

Hanbury was moved from centre-back and Padraig Mannion moved from the corner to full-back, where he's not comfortable.

The tide turned in Kilkenny's favour, they upped the tempo and Galway were found wanting - again.

Players quiet in the first half thundered into the game - Mick Fennelly, Kieran Joyce, Joey Holden.

Murphy started to sweep up and TJ came into the game, winning puck-outs and spraying the ball around. Conor Fogarty and Cillian Buckley were the pick of the bunch - my contenders for man-of-the-match.

And then the opposite of what happened in the first half unfolded. In the 39th minute, Davy Glennon wound up for a big one, was hooked by Richie Hogan and Kilkenny won the free.

It was Richie's time to rally the Kilkenny fans and TJ converted. The tide was turning. Joe Canning couldn't influence the game for Galway, drifting between the half- and full-forward lines. He was scoreless from play and had a very quiet game. Galway needed more from him, and others, but Galway were still in it until Jonjo Farrell's goal.

Galway are in big trouble now and need to avoid Clare in the quarter-finals if they want to get back to the semis.

Read More: Mental block comes back to haunt Galway

On a busy hurling weekend, I was in Cork on Saturday night to see the hosts beat Dublin.

It was must-win for Cork and while doubts remain about their defence, Patrick Horgan, Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan stood up in attack. They could trouble somebody yet - but only if their backline holds firm.

As for Dublin, this defeat doesn't bode well for their manager Ger Cunningham.

Conal Keaney had a pop on Twitter after the Kilkenny game and another former player, Mick Carton, was on the same medium on Saturday night having a go. That tells you that something is not right.

Meanwhile, in Wexford, the home side had a perfectly good goal ruled out, when Mark Fanning's penalty was missed by the officials.

In the age of technology, it's simply not good enough and shouldn't be happening. There's too much invested by managers and players for these errors to crop up time and time again.

Credit to Wexford for not letting it rattle them and their fans should get behind Liam Dunne and the team for next weekend's qualifier.

Elsewhere, there were predicted victories for Clare and Limerick. I'm looking forward to this morning's draw with bated breath.

Irish Independent

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