Galway's glorious redemption
HOPES of a fitting, maybe even rousing, finale to the under 21 hurling championship at Thurles last night collapsed under the weight of those expectations and a Galway team determined to atone for past disappointment.
They did so in fine style but they'll surely have felt surprised that they won it so bloodlessly. Dublin's search for a first under 21 title continues and the year ends without the championship victory the capital craved as a final act of completion. Following the defeat of the minors by Galway it has been a deflating close to the year.
But Galway have had their own wounds and scores to settle. Three years ago this team was cruelly denied in an All-Ireland minor final by an unsympathetic Kilkenny, who beat them with lethally-timed goals against the run of play.
Last night that bunch of players found a significant measure of compensation in winning the All-Ireland under 21 title. It rounded off a lavish week's takings for the county's unstoppable underage industry.
We have seen this youthful spring before and it hasn't translated into a senior flush but the win last night will surely fast-track some of these hurlers on to the senior panel, those, that is, who aren't there already.
Having overcome Limerick, the spectacular winners of Munster, they went to Thurles last night facing a Dublin team keen to win a first All-Ireland hurling championship of any description since 1965.
Galway had more recent incentive. They suffered a hammering by Tipperary in a Premier carnival at this venue last year with half a dozen of those players hurling last night who looked pumped up to salvage their honour.
They did that with plenty to spare, and with questions regarding the county's mettle and character hardly scarce after the fall of the seniors, this is a welcome and timely lift for their tormented hurling followers.
For the majority of the first half the game was alive even if Galway had the demeanour of a team awaiting its chance to shift on to a higher gear and Dublin had the look of a team waiting for it to happen.
Eventually, in the lead-in to the interval, it did. Galway struck two goals and a close encounter suddenly had the bleak complexion of one already settled and devoid of the element of suspense required to keep a small attendance intrigued. Dublin's hopes quickly evaporated in that late blitz before half-time when goals from Davy Glennon, a beautiful hurler who provided some delightful moments, and James Regan drove a serious wedge between the teams.
Galway galloped off 3-6 to 1-4 clear and it would have taken a brave punter to lay money on Dublin reversing the tide. Dublin couldn't make any serious impression up front and Daire Plunkett had a quiet evening, the majority of their scores coming from frees.
Galway had an early two-point lead but they were rocked in the third minute by a Dublin goal from Tomas Connolly, brother of the footballer Diarmuid. He drilled the ball to the net after a point attempt by Kevin O'Loughlin was batted clear by Jamie Ryan.
Galway responded with a goaled penalty by Tadhg Haran after a harsh decision against the Dublin goalkeeper Ger McManus four minutes later. Haran failed from three first-half frees which helped keep Dublin in touch and with seven minutes left to the break they had clawed themselves level.
The remainder of the first- half scoring was all Galway's. Glennon slipped in behind the Dublin cover to goal, having been put through by senior hurler David Burke, then operating in attack. Then Regan burst through after a great catch and despite shipping a dangerous belt from Bill O'Carroll, he kept his composure to fire past McManus.
For the second half Dublin pushed Liam Rushe into midfield to try to get the team to ignite. But Galway had the bit between their teeth and refused to yield. Dublin rarely looked like scoring a goal -- with one exceptional save denying Robert Mahon -- and Galway did enough to keep them at a safe distance.
Scorers -- Galway: T Haran 1-3 (1-0 pen), J Regan 1-2, D Glennon 1-2, N Burke 0-3 (2f), D Burke 0-3 (2f), C Cooney 0-1. Dublin: T Connolly 1-2 (2f), K O'Loughlin 0-5 (5f), R Mahon 0-2, N McMorrow 0-1.
Galway: J Ryan; D Connolly, N Donoghue, G O'Halloran; J Grealish, P Gordon, R Foy; J Coen, D Burke; C Cooney, N Burke, T Haran; J Regan, B Daly, D Glennon. Subs: R Burke for Gordan (18), B Burke for Haran (41), D Fox for Cooney (54), N Quinn for N Burke (56), D Cooney for D Burke (inj 61).
Dublin: G McManus; B O'Carroll, D Kelly, J Doughan; D Curran, L Rushe, M Quilty; C Gough, D Sutcliffe; D Plunkett, M Schutte, T Connolly; K O'Loughlin, N McMorrow, E Dillon. Subs: F Clabby & S McGrath for Kelly & Schutte (h-t), R Mahon for O'Loughlin (40), B Quinn for Connolly (57)
Referee: T Carroll (Offaly)
Sunday Indo Sport