Sunday 18 August 2019

'These things happen' - Fenway Classic brawl dismissed as Galway take honours

Galway 50-47 Dublin

Players from Dublin and Galway tussle during the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic at Fenway Park yesterday
Players from Dublin and Galway tussle during the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic at Fenway Park yesterday
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham
Johnny Coen of Galway in action against Dublin's Chris Crummey
The Galway players celebrate their victory

Conor McKeon

Hurling came to Fenway Park yesterday and Dublin and Galway brought their antagonism for one another with them too.

It made for a more engaging spectacle than most had expected from the 11-a-side, goals-only game but a meaty row in the second quarter threatened longer-term consequences for its central characters.

Andy Smith and Conor Dooley - one of three goalkeepers used by Dublin yesterday - clashed close to the Dublin goal and in a full-blooded contest between teams with a recently acquired but sparky rivalry, their team-mates weren't shy about getting involved.

Referee Alan Kelly from Galway chose to issue yellow cards to Smith, Dooley and Enda Skehill, a two-minute sin-binning, thus avoiding any retrospective punishment.

"There was a bit of a late pull and these things happen," reckoned Johnny McCaffrey afterwards.

"We weren't going to give an inch or walk away, but there was no serious injury and that was all.

"The referee handled it well, he got in straight away, went to the TMO and took his time with the decision."

Otherwise, the AIG Fenway Classic couldn't have gone much better for the GPA and GAA in their latest attempt to sell hurling to an American audience.

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A tight game, won by Galway by three points.

A good crowd too, some 27,776 in Boston's iconic baseball ground Fenway Park.

At the end, Galway celebrated like they'd won something of great significance, pucking balls into the crowd and embracing heartily.

A reflection perhaps of their recent period of turmoil more so than the win itself.

They arrived with no permanent manager, having had a letter to their own county board outlining the reasons for their dissatisfaction with the ousted Anthony Cunningham leaked on the day of their flight to Boston. Public support might not be with them over their coup, but there was a united and defiant front from Galway over the weekend.

"As a group, collectively, we felt this was the best for Galway hurling," explained Jason Flynn, the young Galway forward, of their protracted removal of Anthony Cunningham.

"The vote went the way it did and that's it now."

As it happened, Flynn was one of the stars yesterday.

As were the goalkeepers, in particular Gary Maguire and Galway's current All-Star netminder, Colm Callanan, both of whom pulled off an array of fine stops as the teams gradually warmed to the rules of the abridged game.

Flynn scored 18 points as Galway came back from a five-point third quarter deficit to win in a tight and, all told, fairly exciting finish.

Dublin's Eamonn Dillon was another to adapt quickly, scoring 17 points for Dublin, though Galway looked the sharper late on and they accelerated towards the end where Dublin lagged.

"It probably won't take off in Ireland against hurling, but it could definitely take off abroad," reflected Dublin captain Liam Rushe, who played two years ago when this version of the game was last trialled on American soil in Notre Dame in 2013.

"As you can see, hurling hasn't taken off abroad, be that because of numbers or pitches or that people aren't familiar with it.

"It's a good game, it's aesthetically pleasing so it could take off and we're here to promote it."

Paramount to that was always going to be the attitude of the teams to play a one-off exhibition match in their inter-county off season and there were no complaints there.

On Saturday, Galway trained in Canton, the GAA's home in Boston.

Dublin, meanwhile, prepared in Boston University and bar the odd lapse under the pressure of the physicality of the game, most got their heads around the finer detail of the rules quite easily on an occasion made as much by the setting as the contest.

"We've heard all the stories (about Fenway) going all the way back to De Valera and Babe Ruth," noted Dublin goalkeeper, Maguire afterwards.

"It's historic and we were thrilled to be part of it. We're really gutted to have lost the game, but seeing Fenway Park and the set-up was great.

"Conor Dooley had an X-ray straight away after his injury," he pointed out. "Where would you get that?"

SCORERS - Galway: J Flynn 18, C Whelan 12, B Molloy 11, G Lally, S Moloney, C Mannion 3 each. Dublin: E Dillon 17, F McGibb 10, D Sutcliffe 6, J McCaffrey, D O'Callaghan, C McBride 3 each.

GALWAY - C Callanan; F Moore, P Mannion, J Coen; G Lally, S Moloney; I Tannian, A Harte; J Flynn, C Whelan, A Smith.

Interchange: E Burke, R Burke, C Donnellan, C Flynn, J Glynn, J Hanbury, D Higgins, P Killeen, C Mannion G McInerney, B Molloy, J Skehill.

DUBLIN - G Maguire; S Barrett, L Rushe J Boland; C Crummey, E Dillon; N McMorrow C Boland; O O'Rorke, D O'Callaghan, P Ryan. Interchange: C Bennett, C Dooley, J Madden, S Lambert, J McCaffrey, A Nolan, R McBride, C Mac Gabhan, E O'Donnell, B Quinn, F McGibb, D Sutcliffe.

REF - A Kelly (Galway)

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