Sunday 19 November 2017

'We don't deal in excuses. Galway were better today'

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

IT was the last place they expected to be but Kilkenny went through the ritual, quietly standing together under a damp, leaden sky as Galway hands clasped the Bob O'Keeffe Cup.

The historic old trophy was for export, headed across the Shannon for the first time after a remarkable afternoon, the full significance of which will only be known later on.

Was it the launch of Galway's long-awaited fulfilment of potential which has promised a whole lot more than it has delivered for a long time now?

Equally intriguingly, was it a mere circuit overload for Kilkenny that caused a temporary power failure which will be rectified or a sign of more serious generator problems?

History shows the former is more likely as Kilkenny recovered from a heavy defeat by Dublin in last year's League final to dominate the championship with awesome authority.

Territory

Now, they're facing a new challenge, returning to the unfamiliar territory of an All-Ireland quarter-final.

That's for the future but as Brian Cody assesses yesterday's defeat, excuses were nowhere to be found on his straight-forward agenda.

"We don't deal in excuses. Galway were better than us today. No question about that," said Cody. "I said Galway were capable of beating us and we were capable of beating them on different days. They obviously got on top of the game very, very early and they were by far the better team.

"That's the way it works. The better team always wins on the day."

For Galway, the sense of relief after reaching the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 2005 was immense. The success was born of an energy and enterprise which rattled Kilkenny from the start.

"We'd be very happy with the work rate. If you don't have a huge work rate and intensity, you don't have any chance against Kilkenny," said Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham.

He had seen his squad wiped out by Kilkenny in a League clash in Nowlan Park in April but felt that it was the only occasion they had seriously under-performed.

It left them primed for a big push in the championship but even within an hour of delivering their most significant win since the All-Ireland semi-final success over Kilkenny in 2005, Cunningham was already preparing for the next challenge.

That includes managing the inevitable hype spin-off which will accompany yesterday's win.

"We're delighted to be the first Galway team to win a Leinster final but after this evening we'll be focused on the All-Ireland semi-final," said Cunningham.

"We've had great days here in the past and not built on them. We need consistency -- that's the big challenge for us now. It hasn't always been there in the past."

Despite the unexpected setback, Cody was pleased with the manner in which his squad battled on against the odds in the second half. That stubbornness will now form the basis for their re-launch in the quarter-final.

"They responded in the second half so I'd certainly expect we'll respond the next day too. We're still there but obviously the anticipation is going to be lessened, presumably fairly dramatically because today Galway showed themselves to be a superior force.The All-Ireland championship is wide open, Thankfully, we're still there and we'll see where it goes" said Cody.

Cunningham admitted to fearing a Kilkenny backlash in the second half which made it crucial for Galway to return to their high-powered game immediately on the re-start.

"Kilkenny are always good at getting goals but when they got them this time we came back straight away with points. That steadied the ship which was vital for a young team playing the likes of Kilkenny," he said.

As for those who may consider writing off Kilkenny, Cunningham was advising a re-think.

"There's nothing worse than a wounded cat. They'll be back. Whoever faces Kilkenny the next day will be really up against it," said Cunningham

On yesterday's evidence, so will whoever plays Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Irish Independent

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