Sport Hurling

Saturday 25 November 2017

Martin Breheny: Galway must restore pride

Fragile Tribesmen too quick to raise white flag when rivals land blows

David Burke and members of the Galway backroom team show their disappointment after Sunday's loss to Dublin
David Burke and members of the Galway backroom team show their disappointment after Sunday's loss to Dublin
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Hurling may have shed its predictable garb and donned a coat of many colours for its most exciting summer in many years, but there wasn't much gaiety in the warm western air on Monday night when the Galway squad and management gathered for their first post-Leinster final debrief.

They did so against a grim background where they surrendered the title in an abysmal performance that sentenced the county to its biggest championship defeat in Croke Park for 38 years.

The 1975 team that lost the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny by 12 points had the excuse that were they new to that level and that Galway was still getting used to a return to the top table after decades in the desert.

Besides, the 1975 team had ousted Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final, having earlier beaten Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary in the knock-out stages of the NHL to win the title for the first time in 24 years, so quite a lot was achieved that year.

The All-Ireland final proved a challenge too much for Galway against a Kilkenny team that, prior to the arrival of the current generation, was regarded as possibly the best produced by the county.

Since 1975, Galway have lost 25 senior championship games in Croke Park but never by a margin as high as 12 points. Never, that is, until last Sunday when Dublin beat them 2-25 to 2-13.

Indeed, the scoreline flattered Galway as Dublin could have scored at least another three goals. And since they outscored Galway by 0-6 to 0-0 in the final five minutes, it's likely that if there had been longer stoppage-time, the winning margin would have hit the 15-point mark.

While Dublin deserve great credit for expanding so impressively through each of five championship games in what has been a remarkable month for them, they would readily admit to being surprised at how easily Galway capitulated.

Joe Canning was an honourable exception but found himself taking on the Dublin defence virtually on his own.

Retained

None of the other 14 starters could say they did anything like enough to make a case as to why they should be retained for the All-Ireland quarter-final.

The power surge against Kilkenny in last year's Leinster final and their close call in the drawn All-Ireland final, separated by an efficient dismissal of Cork in the semi-final, suggested that there was a new sense of stability in Galway.

Whether or not it would ultimately bring All-Ireland success was uncertain but the view that Galway had not only reached top-three level, but would remain there, seemed justified.

Instead, the inconsistent streak that bedevilled them prior to July-early September last year has returned.

Once again, it's accompanied by an inability to stop the bleeding when they suffer a cut. Dublin outscored them by 2-11 to 0-5 between the 14th and 44th minutes last Sunday.

This was a Galway team that had come within one score of winning the All-Ireland title last year, yet were now allowing Dublin to outscore them by 12 points in half an hour.

Nothing new there, of course. Galway were outscored 1-12 to 0-4 by Kilkenny between the 32nd and 48th minutes of the league semi-final in April and by 2-10 to 0-6 in 22 minutes by Tipperary a month earlier.

Kilkenny outgunned by them by 2-6 to 0-1 between the 48th and 62nd minutes of last year's All-Ireland final replay, having earlier won the first half of their league clash by 3-12 to 0-6; Waterford overwhelmed them by 0-9 to 0-1 in 19 minutes in the second half of the 2011 All-Ireland quarter-final; Dublin beat them by 0-14 to 0-3 between the 10th and 50th minutes of the 2011 Leinster semi-final; Kilkenny outpointed them 0-8 to 0-1 in the third quarter of the 2010 Leinster final.

There are other examples too of games when Galway went through periods where they were so out-classed that it looked like juniors versus seniors.

Yet, they demolished Kilkenny by 2-11 to 0-1 in the first half hour of last year's Leinster final.

Significantly, though, Kilkenny won the rest of the game by 2-10 to 0-10. It was a long way short of completing a recovery but at least they battled all the way to the finish unlike Galway, who hoisted the white flag over the closing minutes last Sunday. Nor did they bring enough 'devil' at various stages earlier on either.

Bodies hurtling into battle is the minimum expectation, but Galway failed on that front when Dublin accelerated in the second quarter and maintained the pressure immediately after half-time.

As for the wipe-out in the closing minutes, it was unbecoming of any team.

As Ciaran Fitzgerald, one of Galway's very own, might say: "Where's your f***ing pride?"

Answers in the quarter-finals on July 28?

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