Monday 11 December 2017

Tribesmen divide up the wealth


Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

BY the time Joe Canning hit the first of his 11 points in the 28th minute, all five of his forward team-mates, plus midfielder Iarla Tannian, had contributed to Galway's running total of 3-7.

It was highly significant in its own way for while Canning remains central to much of Galway's attacking strategy, they have several others who are capable of making things happen too.

Indeed, they made so much happen in the first 10 minutes in Portlaoise yesterday that Offaly were left totally bewildered as they tried to figure out why their security system had malfunctioned so badly.

"Suicide defending," was Ollie Baker's description of Offaly's early jousts with the Galway forwards, which were so one-sided that it looked like juniors against seniors.

Conor Cooney, posted at full-forward early on in a realigned Galway attack, struck for his first goal in the fifth minute, after an error by Offaly full-back David Kenny, and pounced for a second a minute later.

Shane Dooley pulled one back shortly afterwards but the goal rush continued in the 10th minute when David Burke struck Galway's third to leave them leading by 3-1 to 1-1.

Bizarre stuff really but it had set the template for a game that showed up, in emphatic terms, the gulf in standards between the main All-Ireland contenders and the rest.

Offaly rallied after Galway's third goal, scoring five unanswered points but there was no real sense that they could retain the momentum and Galway quickly re-asserted themselves.

Panic rippled through the Offaly defence and with Galway mixing their game cleverly, using aerial and ground raids to good effect, it was only a matter of time before they landed another goal.

It came just before half-time when a quick, incisive move by the Galway attack presented Damien Hayes with a chance which he finished deftly to the Offaly net to leave Galway leading by 4-11 to 1-10.

"That goal was a killer. We had missed a few chances ourselves and when Galway scored their fourth goal so close to half-time, it left us with an awful lot to do," said Baker.

So much to do, in fact, that there was never the remotest chance they could dig their way back into the game.

They needed a good start to the second half to give them any chance of asking serious questions of Galway but instead they were hit for five points, four from Canning placed balls.

It was a long way to the finish line after that but, to their credit, Offaly plugged on in futile pursuit of rivals who were probably already thinking ahead to the final.

While Kilkenny and Dublin have their own war to sort out on Saturday, they would also have kept a close eye on yesterday's game and will have noted that for the second time in a fortnight Galway leaked goals, which must be of concern to manager Anthony Cunningham.

Offaly sub Derek Molloy scored his side's second goal in the 58th minute and Shane Dooley drove a free to the Galway net six minutes later, two giveaways which would have been really costly in a tighter game.

"We have improvements to make -- there's is no doubt of that. We have to be sharper in general play.

"We'll be stepping up again so we have to be ready for it," said Cunningham.

Galway's high-earning, high-spend lifestyle is certainly exciting but, on the basis that they won't bank anything like they did yesterday against better defences, they will need to tighten up defensively for the much tougher tests ahead.

Further up, they really are looking impressive.

Tannian exerted a powerful influence at midfield while the inter-changeability of the attack creates all sorts of options.

Offaly never came close to solving the problem as the Galway forwards looped around each, combining pace and precision to whip up real menace.

"Look, Galway are a quality team. They're big, strong and physical but also play a fast brand of hurling. Anthony Cunningham has brought a new style to this Galway team," said Baker.

"Having said that, we did well at times but the first-half goals were killers.

"The big difference was that Galway punished nearly every mistake we made."

Galway can certainly be pleased with a final return of 5-23 (they could have had at least three more goals) but the concession of 3-15 has to be of concern.

"We would be disappointed with that -- it's something we have to work on. But the way the game is going now, there are often lots of goals," said Cunningham.

In fairness to the Galway defence, a lack of concentration, brought about by big leads, may have been behind their second-half leaks against both Westmeath and Offaly.

On the plus side, they had so many scores on deposit that they were never in any danger of being caught.

"You can only play what is in front of you. Today was a step-up for us and we did well but we'd hope to improve again," said Cunningham.


As for Offaly, they head for the All-Ireland qualifiers where they will play Clare, Cork or Tipperary, a challenge which, on yesterday's evidence, they will find mighty hard to negotiate.

There were signs in the Leinster quarter-final that their defence was suspect but Wexford failed to exploit the openings. It was all so different yesterday against a high-quality attack, whose movement mesmerised Offaly into submission.

It's club action for the Galway players next weekend but Cunningham will return to O'Moore Park on Saturday for the Dublin-Kilkenny semi-final.

"It's going to be some battle," he said. From his perspective, though, he has a squad more than capable of taking on the winners in three weeks' time as Galway go in search of a first Leinster title.

Scorers -- Galway: J Canning 0-11 (5f, 4 '65s'), C Cooney 2-0, D Hayes 1-3, D Burke 1-1, D Glennon 1-0, C Donnellan 0-3, I Tannian 0-2, N Burke, T Haran, J Regan 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 2-7 (1-3f, 2 '65's), D Molloy 1-1, C Mahon, J Bergin, C Egan 0-2 each, D Morkan 0-1.

Galway -- J Skehill 5; N Donoghue, 6 K Hynes 7, F Moore 8 ; J Coen 6, T Og Regan 7, J Cooney 7; I Tannian 8, A Smith 6; D Burke 7, N Burke 6, C Donnellan 9; D Hayes 8, J Canning 7, C Cooney 7. Subs: P Gordon 6 for Donoghue (31), J Glynn 7 for N Burke (50), J Regan 6 for C Cooney (55), T Haran 6 for Tannian (60), D Glennon for Donnellan (64).

Offaly -- J Dempsey 6; D Morkan 6, D Kenny 5 D Franks 5; D Horan 5, R Hanniffy 7, J Rigney 6; C Mahon 6, K Brady 5; J Bergin 6, C Egan 7, B Murphy 5; S Dooley 7, C Parlon 6, B Carroll 5. Subs: D Molloy 7 for Franks (h-t), C McDonald 5 for Kenny (41), S Ryan 5 for Carroll (48), C Hernon 6 for Mahon (55).

Ref -- C McAllister (Cork).

Irish Independent

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