Disallowed goal changed shape of final
YESTERDAY'S All-Ireland final was a game that started in the 44th minute and ended in the 49th. Cyril Donnellan's goal disallowed, Joe Canning's glorious sideline cut, Canning's shot off the post, Kilkenny's point and then Donnellan's sending off.
It was a bad decision to disallow the goal, a huge call. Damien Hayes was fouled first, Donnellan gained possession and then a hurley was swung across him. But he should have been left go on. The team with the obvious advantage there was penalised.
I feel sorry for Donnellan. In the 2009 final, we had Benny Dunne sent off, but I remember that night in the Burlington Hotel and everybody rallied around Benny. Last night, the Galway players will have done the same for Cyril. You can't cast blame it on one player. You go to Croke Park as a team and come home as a team.
Overall, what struck me yesterday was Kilkenny's sharpness. Look at their goals -- shots blocked, but forwards following in. As a forward, you'll always make those runs, waiting for the spillage, even though it might never happen. Those are the kind of opportunities that might present themselves once every 10 shots, but yesterday, Kilkenny got the rewards.
A word, too, on Henry Shefflin. What leadership he showed yesterday. And what about workrate? Other Kilkenny players feed off Shefflin. I wrote on Friday that I didn't think Henry or Joe would dictate like they did in the drawn match. Henry was excellent again, it must be said, but other Kilkenny forwards stepped up to the plate, worked harder.
And when they're on top, boy do Kilkenny punish you. If Kilkenny had the lead Galway had the first day, that game wouldn't have finished in a draw. They're the best team in the country to drive on when they get ahead.
The way I saw it, Galway couldn't have done much more. They scored two goals in three minutes, but crucially, Kilkenny responded with a goal of their own after Galway's second. I really liked Galway's second goal. Damien Hayes could have shot but he took the right option -- handpass to David Burke. It showed Galway were looking for each other all day, but ultimately, six minutes decided the destination of the Liam MacCarthy.
Walter Walsh was hugely impressive on his championship debut. I heard Brian Cody talking after the game and he came out with a brilliant statement, along the lines that everybody has to start somewhere. It really doesn't matter if it's Walsh Cup, Leinster final or All-Ireland final. If you're good enough in Cody's eyes, you start.
In training, the word was Walsh was giving Jackie Tyrrell enough of it. Any lad mixing it with Jackie deserves a start. Captain Eoin Larkin impressed me too, especially his aggression levels.
He was getting on the ball, running through the middle and he created the first goal, tapped home by Richie Power from James Skehill's save. But all of Kilkenny's players did their bit.
They must have won nearly every individual battle in the game.
So where does this leave Galway? Well, after the Leinster final, they were reflecting on a great win. After the drawn All-Ireland final, they would have been listening to the talk. 'Ye have the measure of this Kilkenny team.' Sure, they would have believed they were as good as Kilkenny, but when you have people saying it, that seeps into the sub-conscious. You believe you have it in the bag.
To be honest, I can't say what frame of mind Galway were in, but looking at the game, Kilkenny were quicker onto the breaks. Compared to the first game or the Leinster final, Galway's aggression levels didn't seem to be the same. On the flipside, Kilkenny's workrate and aggression levels increased. They made it very difficult for Galway's defence to clear ball and much of it going down field was aimless, easy for Kilkenny to pick up.
But Galway have made huge progress. The challenge now is to bounce back.
While I'm at it ...
THAT was a great victory for Tipperary in yesterday's minor final replay. It good Tipp hurling, forwards quick onto the break, with plenty of room for the half-forward and full-forward lines.
Stephen Cahill's switch to midfield was a smart move, with Dylan Fitzell introduced at centre- forward. I liked the way manager William Maher made huge calls on a huge day.
I thought Stephen dictated the pace of the game from midfield and this win was a huge boost, just what Tipp needed. Looking back, it hasn't been that bad a year after all.
Our intermediates and minors won All-Irelands, the seniors won a Munster title and the U-21s were unlucky against Clare in their Munster final. There's great belief and hope in Tipperary and it's only a few years since guys like Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath and Paudie Maher were minors themselves.
Now, they're the backbone of the senior team. These minors have to believe in themselves now, drive on and look to become that senior backbone themselves. The future's bright and just as we always do in Tipp, we'll get up and drive on.