Sunday 18 February 2018

No complaints from Galway, only regrets

WHEN the analysis starts this week on where this All-Ireland was won and lost, maybe talk won't have to go too far beyond Brian Cody's team selection.

Naturally, he wasn't happy with what he saw the last day so he introduced two youngsters in Cillian Buckley and Walter Walsh who helped energise a reorganised team.

They weren't obvious changes. Neither player set the world on fire in the All-Ireland U-21 final against Clare.

Buckley had played well in the league but wasn't used in the drawn game when Cody made only one substitution, while Walsh's inclusion came totally out of the blue.

On his championship debut, Walsh hit 1-3, including the Cats' second goal that effectively settled the game.

The positioning of Buckley in midfield, an area that Galway had won hands down in the drawn game, and of Walsh on Johnny Coen, was most significant.

Buckley's mobility gave Iarla Tannian and Andy Smith something different to think about, while Walsh's physicality meant Coen, who had been excellent at sweeping up loose ball, had his hands full with this new challenge.

Galway had some chances. The period of the game that saw Joe Canning hit the post and Cyril Donnellan put the ball in the net before he was sent off was decisive.

Canning's goal attempt not only stayed out, but Kilkenny capitalised to point through Buckley a few seconds later for a four-point swing.

Galway players looked aggrieved that Donnellan's goal didn't stand, but, in fairness to referee James McGrath, he had the whistle blown for a Galway free before the ball had hit the net.

And when the same player was sent off, they were simply left with too much to do.

At that stage, Galway were a man down and for the first time this year, they really had to chase a game.

It was new territory for them and something that would have been difficult with a full complement of players.

When they only had 14 men they were on a near impossible task and, when gaps begin to appear, there is no team better than Kilkenny at taking advantage. They went on to open up a lead that stretched to 15 points at one stage.

Galway can have no complaints. The best team won on the day without doubt.

It's hard to think of one position where Galway came out on top, with Kilkenny winning all the major duels.

If Kilkenny didn't hurl from midfield up the last day, they turned that around yesterday. All of their starting forwards and two midfielders scored from play yesterday.

For Galway, Canning was the only forward to point from play.

And while there were only four points in it at half-time, Anthony Cunningham's side had been out-hurled in the opening 35 minutes with only David Burke's two goals keeping them in contention.

It was notable too that both times Galway goaled, the Cats hit back -- first through a TJ Reid point and then through a Richie Power goal.

Normally, raising a green flag gives you a period of dominance, but Kilkenny were able to prevent any real momentum building in their opponents.


That helped Kilkenny, Cody and the irrepressible Henry Shefflin to a ninth title in 13 years. Noel Hickey also picked up his ninth medal, but for Shefflin to win each of those on the field of play is a remarkable feat.

There's very little else that can be said about him except that he is the role model that all players should aspire to in terms of attitude and, of course, skill. He's a fantastic ambassador for the game.

I expect Galway will return next year. The drawn final, in which they led by eight points at one stage, will undoubtedly be referenced mournfully this week.

The challenge now is to learn from what went wrong and apply those lessons for 2013.

In the minor final, Tipperary did what we expected them to do in the drawn game.

They looked to be the best team in the country this year, but they were a little bit off last time out and Dublin were in their faces.

Tipp were nearly caught that day but credit to William Maher, who got his young team settled and focused on the job again to secure another underage title for the Premier county.

Irish Independent

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