Tuesday 23 January 2018

Galway glide past woeful Rebels

Cloonan & Co accept Cork's tame surrender GALWAY 0-21 ; CORK 1-9 HISTORY fell away like old snakeskin here as the Galway hurlers went bounding into the All-Ireland quarter-finals with a victory at Semple Stadium that reduced Cork to a torn corpse.

In 26 previous championship meetings between the counties, Galway had accumulated a paltry return of three victories.

So this triumph was a sweet corruption of tradition. But, more than that, it offered a harrowing portrait of aristocracy on their uppers.

Cork, the '99 All-Ireland champions, managed a return of just 0-3 after the resumption, having reached half-way at level scores (1-6 to 0-9).

We imagined, at the time, that a battle would ensue. Instead, we got a wake.

Even Galway's manager, Noel Lane, was largely unimpressed by the rhythms of a victory that ostensibly looked persuasive.

"I wasn't that happy at all with the forwards, there's a lot of work to be done," shrugged Lane. "We've nothing to be going home crowing about. Cork had already been beaten in the Munster Championship by Waterford and were lucky enough against Limerick. They're not the team they used to be, so we're not going to fooled by this.

"We didn't play particularly well on the day. I'd say Cork weren't right for the game. They weren't flying and we took advantage of that. If they were a better team, we might have paid the price.

"We're under no illusions."

Commendable frankness then from the Galway camp. Discernment too. For this was a story of Cork poverty, stark and troubling.

They had the blessing of Joe Deane's goal in the 31st minute, after Michael Crimmons had spilled Alan Cummins' delivery into the Killeagh man's path, but thereafter Cork summoned neither shape nor indignation.

In a sense, they seemed to slip into a self-pitying stupor just seconds after the resumption when substitute Seanie McGrath lanced a shot to Crimmons' net after being hit by Alan Browne's drive but the umpires adjudged Seanie to have been loitering in the 'square'.

"We seemed to lose the plot after that," lamented Cork boss Bertie Óg Murphy. "It seemed to disrupt things. We started passing balls that we should have been putting over the bar."

The scale of Galway's authority from that moment on is best measured by the scoring. Lane's men won the second half by 0-12 to 0-3. "And we're normally a second half team," groaned a disconsolate Murphy.

Galway won private battles throughout the field. Eugene Cloonan slipped in and out of the Cork 'square' at his own bidding, taking the shunts of Diarmuid O'Sullivan and giving plenty in return. O'Sullivan was booked for a late pull on the Athenry man after just nine minutes and never subsequently grew into the game.

Occasionally, Cloonan inter-changed with Mark Kerins. Neither did much for the comportment of the 'The Rock'.

But Cork's troubles lay, most harrowingly, further afield. Their midfield was what it has been for years now, a whir of anonymous men in red. And the half-forwards amounted to frail boats snapping in a storm.

The decision to try Timmy McCarthy on the '40' backfired pretty luridly, the Castlelyons man never managing to trouble Liam Hodgins and ultimately being sent off after 54 minutes for an off-the-ball incident that seemed to leave Galway full-back Diarmuid Cloonan on his back and in pretty animated discomfort.

"We were up the creek then," remarked the Cork manager later. No paddles either.

Physically and mentally, Galway just had them in a vice-grip. The younger Cloonan calmly dealt with Alan Browne's goal-threat, Ollie Canning snuffed out the threat of Deane after Gregory Kennedy took a shine to McGrath's red helmet and the half-backs just dipped their shoulders and hurled to the end without affectation or favour.

Two glorious Galway scores, one from Eugene Cloonan, the other from Kevin Broderick, followed McGrath's counterfeit 'goal' at the Killinan End and, slowly, Galway lifted themselves above the prevailing scratchiness, just pushing for home.

Richie Murray was a ubiquitous presence around the middle while, down the wings, Broderick and Fergal Healy started summoning the grace-notes. And big Joe Rabbitte came in, trouping across to 'The Rock' just when O'Sullivan probably felt his day could not get any worse.

John Browne was the pick of the Cork defenders, seeing off the threat of Damien Hayes with calm authority. Yet, even he suffered from Rabbitte's arrival.

Ten minutes from time, Browne stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Rabbitte for Pat Horan's drop and watched with incredulity as the big Tysaxon man got the sliotar to hand with a single touch and placed Broderick for a score. Galway 0-16, Cork 1-8. Stewards to end of match ...

It ended as a clay-pigeon shoot, Cork people spilling towards the exits.

@@STYL nquote 'Cork are not the team they used to be, so we're not going to fooled by this'

Noel Lane

Rabbitte and Fergal Healy lobbed nonchalant points and, then, the ultimate commentary of a humiliated team.

With a minute of normal time remaining, Rory Gantley strolled on as a replacement for Mark Kerins. On his first touch, Gantley scored a point. With his second, he reprised.

Cork weren't just beaten, they were gaping at the tunnel, thinking thoughts that blasphemed a great tradition.

The narrative of the Galway dressing-room afterwards hinted at what we'd witnessed.

No yelps, just smiles. No wild, insensate jabbering. "Just happy we got over it," shrugged Rabbitte. "We've a lot of things to improve on. God, we're only starting out."

Beside him, David Tierney reminded us of Galway's intention to "just keep plugging away" and Eugene Cloonan lamented a few careless wides.

It was all sane and sensible and tied resolutely to truth. Galway hurled well here without ever surging to the notes they reached last autumn.

Plus points? Cloonan looked good at full-back, Canning was a marvel in the corner, the half-backs hurled a human storm, Murray was imperious at midfield and the attack, while visibly blowing hot and cold, still accumulated a total that would win most championship confrontations.

For Cork, the consolations are few and tame.

Browne's excellence at corner-back just rekindled the sense that he had been hopelessly mis-cast at number six. Young John Gardiner held his ground, though sometimes with a desperation that fed Galway frees. Others like Sherlock, Ó hAilpín and Fergal Ryan baled hard against the tide.

But only Deane looked the part in attack, an isolated figure ultimately rendered mute by the clumsiness around him.

Defeat was so overwhelming, so palpably demeaning, that team-boss Murphy sensibly eschewed any needless self-absorption.

"There's no point blaming disallowed goals or sendings-offs," said Murphy. "The team that played the better hurling won. Simple as that. It's a big blow. We were confident coming into the game that we could win it. Not over-confident or anything. But we actually felt that we would win it.

"This has happened Cork before and Cork has mushroomed but ... it's going to be hard work. It was just one of those days.

"But I must say I was very impressed by Galway. Thought they were better even than they were in last year's All-Ireland final.

"And they did it playing hurling. Fair play to them."

Asked about his immediate future, Murphy just one year into a two-year contract reflected: "I haven't thought about it to be honest. Today is not the day to be thinking about it. We'll sit down another day and have a think about that. There's no panic about it anyway."

Indeed not, for the team are now evicted from the championship.

Galway, on the other hand, move on with refreshed momentum towards the All-Ireland quarter-final on Sunday week. It's a game they will feel is within their compass.

SCORERS Galway: E Cloonan 0-9 (0-7 frees), F Healy 0-3, R Murray, K Broderick and R Gantley 0-2 each, D Hardiman, M Kerins and J Rabbitte 0-1 each. Cork: J Deane 1-4 (0-2 frees), B O'Connor 0-3, N Ronan and B O'Keeffe 0-1 each.


GALWAY M Crimmons 6, G Kennedy 7, D Cloonan 8, O Canning 8, D Hardiman 7, L Hodgins 8, D O'Brien 7, R Murray 9, C Moore 6, D Tierney 7, M Kerins 7, K Broderick 7, D Hayes 7, E Cloonan 7, F Healy 7. Subs: A Kerins 6 for Moore (half-time), B Higgins 6 for O'Brien (45 mins), J Rabbitte 7 for Hayes (52 mins), R Gantley (not on long enough to be rated) for M Kerins (69 mins).

CORK D Og Cusack 7, W Sherlock 7, D O'Sullivan 6, J Browne 7, S Og O hAilpin 7, J Gardiner 7, F Ryan 7, A Cummins 6, N Ronan 6, T McCarthy 5, A Browne 5, J O'Connor 6, B O'Connor 7, E Collins 5, J Deane 8. Subs: S McGrath 6 for Collins (35 mins), N McCarthy 6 for Ronan (48 mins), B O'Keeffe 6 for A Browne (50 mins), D Barrett and P Ryan (not on long enough to be rated) for Cummins and McGrath (68 mins).

REF P Horan (Offaly).

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