Sunday, September 3, 2017


Galway finally reached hurling's promised land as they captured the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time in 29 years and for only the fifth time ever on an emotional day at Croke Park.
So often the bridesmaid on All-Ireland final day – Galway has lost six finals including two in the last five years – their day in the sun finally dawned.
In a nervous decider before a full house, they finally exorcised the demons despite failing to score a goal and conceding two to their opponents.

Joe Canning hit nine points while team captain David Burke scored 0-4 from midfield as the Tribesmen tamed the Waterford challenge in the closing 15 minutes.
It was a poignant win too, given that two of those who featured prominently in previous victories,
Joe McDonagh – who sang the West Awake on the dais of the Hogan Stand when they won in 1980 and Tony Keady who was Man of the Match in their 1988 win – both died in the last 16 months.
Ever since coming back from a ten-point deficit to beat Waterford in the quarter final of the Allianz League earlier this spring, Galway looked like a team on a mission.
They have now completed the clean sweep, winning the Walsh Cup, the Allianz League, the Leinster championship and now the All-Ireland.

Micheál Donoghue, their quietly spoken manager, deserves much credit for turning their fortunes around, though the bulk of the credit belongs to the players who put their credibility on the line by ousting their previous boss Anthony Cunningham in 2015 and
finally, Joe Canning, one of the game's great talent's, won the only medal to have eluded him in his distinguished career.

Well done Galway.

Monday, August 28, 2017



There were so many moments of defiance and examples of iron will from Mayo in this All-Ireland semi-final that they are almost impossible to divide and number in accordance of importance.
But two simply jump off the page in terms of summing up the level of obstinacy that they bring to their football.

The first focused on that sequence of opportunities for Kerry in the 45th minute when Kieran Donaghy deftly put Stephen O'Brien bearing down on goal.
But there to block his initial shot was Keith Higgins. From the rebound David Clarke spread himself to deny O'Brien again. Then Paul Geaney stepped in and he too was thwarted by a combination of Clarke and Colm Boyle.


Mayo were 2-9 to 0-9 ahead at that stage. Any leakage would have been a firm invitation to keep coming but, instead, the vibe emanating was one of absolute resistance that said 'not today'.
In added time James O'Donoghue, omitted by Eamonn Fitzmaurice for the second successive year, twisted and turned to engineer a decent shooting platform off his left foot.
At this stage Kerry were five points down, 2-15 to 0-16, but the mindset of those Mayo players hadn't shifted.

Higgins got the block, Boyle gathered the rebound. The old firm.
Five years on from their first All-Ireland final in this current cycle, six years on from the first of nine All-Ireland semi-finals they've been engaged in, here they were still banging down the door, hassling and harrying the perceived No 1 contenders to Dublin's title off the premises.

Those snapshots perhaps encapsulated all that is best about them.
Paul Geaney of Kerry is tackled by Mayo players, from left, Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins, Séamus O'Shea and Aidan O'Shea. 

After a ragged and fractured first six championship games they have exploded into life in their last three, getting to a performance pitch that has been there in more abbreviated versions over the last six years.

The All-Ireland semi-finals of 2012, when they beat Dublin, and 2014 when they turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead with 14 men against Kerry before Donaghy intervened, were previous high points.

But, in totality, this is as good as it has been from this group, something loosely acknowledged by manager Stephen Rochford afterwards.
"Possibly, because it is an All-Ireland semi-final. There is only one other bigger game in your year. I won't rush into that before I review it. I'm just proud of the way the players performed, they went out to make sure we didn't leave it behind us," he reflected.

Essentially, it's the same players pushing and probing, the same central characters who drive it. They were aggressive, and equally patient, when they had to be. They pushed up on Kerry's kick-outs and destroyed Kerry, winning eight from 14 in the first half.
Kerry suffered the ignominy of Brian Kelly knocking one kick-out over his own end-line for a '45 and had another penalised for not going the required 13 metres. When it went longer, invariably Tom Parsons, Boyle or Kevin McLoughlin were on hand to scoop it up and take it away. Parsons was immense throughout.

All the time Kerry were showing high levels of cynicism to halt Mayo runners at source. The first quarter wasn't complete when the free count was 12-4 in Mayo's favour. But by then Mayo were already edging clear with some authority, 0-6 to 0-4 ahead.
Kerry's decision to play Paul Murphy in a sweeping role for the first half will be the focus of much revision in Kerry this week and beyond.

The bigger picture though will focus on where Kerry find themselves with this team that has been carefully nurtured over the last two years.
The county is teeming with underage talent but finding the right formula, especially in defence, is particularly difficult.

Mark Griffin was one of four players omitted from the drawn game but in his absence the Kerry full-back line was only slightly more secure with Shane Enright again struggling on Andy Moran despite the protection.
Moran finished with just 1-1 this time but his hand was over so much and the sight of him turning inside Enright so often gave Mayo real impetus.
Making his 71st championship appearance, Moran's Indian summer continues and he looks as sharp and agile as he has done in 14-year career.

Kerry got themselves into a defensive flux. In addition to Murphy's role, there was the addition of Tom O'Sullivan, only the second U-21 player Eamonn Fitzmaurice has started in 26 championship games. But Murphy dropping back allowed Mayo to erect stronger ramparts around Donaghy.

After his risky deployment of Aidan O'Shea at full-back on Donaghy the last day, Mayo largely went for that tactic again, this time with much more success though the collaborative effort around O'Shea made a big difference.
Donaghy still set up four scores and helped to create two goal chances but his contribution was more limited.

Rochford felt the slings and arrows in his direction over O'Shea's placement the last day but wasn't looking for retribution now against his critics.
"I don't do things with this team to seek outside approval - or disapproval for that matter," he said. "I didn't lose any sleep about it. We are aware that if we don't deliver in three weeks' time there will be another headline coming but so be it."

Diarmuid O'Connor's cleverly punched goal had given them a first-half cushion, 1-8 to 0-6, and Moran's goal on 38 minutes provided the biggest chink of daylight. After that it was matter of locking it down.
They became just as cynical as Kerry had been as the game degenerated into a messy affair but they got a big contribution off their bench, especially from Conor Loftus who had a hand in the second goal and scored two points.

Cillian O'Connor was black-carded for taking down Stephen O'Brien in the 50th minute, not long after O'Connor had been central to Darran O'Sullivan being wrongly black-carded.

By the end 18 cards had been shown, three red, two black and 13 yellow cards (eight for Kerry) with Peter Crowley and Patrick Durcan picking up double yellows and Donaghy a straight red for lashing out at O'Shea, possibly his last act in an inter-county game.
It was that type of frustrating afternoon for Kerry as they succumbed to the precision and aggression of the most relentless group of men in Irish sport.

Colm Keys

SCORERS - Mayo: C O'Connor 0-6 (6f), J Doherty (1f, 1 '45) 0-3, A Moran 1-1, D O'Connor 1-0, C Loftus, K McLoughlin 0-2 each, C Barrett, P Durcan 0-1 each. Kerry: P Geaney 0-10 (8f), J O'Donoghue 0-3 (1f), J Lyne, J Buckley, J Barry, F Fitzgerald all 0-1 each.
MAYO - D Clarke; C Barrett, A O'Shea, D Vaughan; B Harrison, K Higgins, C Boyle; L Keegan, T Parsons; D O'Connor, S O'Shea, K McLoughlin; A Moran, C O'Connor, J Doherty. Subs: P Durcan for Vaughan (35+2), C Loftus for D O'Connor (h-t), C O'Shea for C O'Connor BC (51), S Coen for S O'Shea (61), D Kirby for Boyle (69), G Cafferkey for Barrett (74).
KERRY - B Kelly; S Enright, T Morley K Young; P Crowley, P Murphy, T O'Sullivan; D Moran, J Barry; D Walsh, J Buckley, J Lyne; P Geaney, K Donaghy, S O'Brien. Subs: J O'Donoghue for Walsh (h-t), D O'Sullivan for Buckley (h-t), F Fitzgerald for Enright (39), J Savage for O'Sullivan (BC, 45), M Griffin for Young (51), BJ Keane for T O'Sullivan (63), A Maher for Barry (blood, 66).

Monday, August 7, 2017


Galway marched into their third All-Ireland final in six years when they avenged last year's semi-final defeat by Tipperary in a pulsating semi-final at Croke Park.

This was the third successive semi-final clash between the counties; Galway won by a point two years ago while Tipp prevailed by a single point last year.
Remarkably, this time around it was another one point game; Joe Canning scored the winning point from under the Cusack Stand in the fifth minute of injury time.
After an indifferent first half in which he was booked and missed a straight forward free, the Portumna centre forward was immense in the spell-binding second period and finished as the game's top scorer with a personal tally of 0-11, seven of which came in the second half.
While the margin of victory was considerably less than the 16 points between the teams when they clashed in the National League final, when Galway first served notice that they would be serious contenders for All-Ireland honours this season.

This was a far more significant win for the Tribesmen than their league win. They're on the cusp of ending their All-Ireland famine which stretches back to 1988.

But their record in finals – they have lost six since their last triumph – will leave their fans on tender hooks ahead of the September showdown against the winners of next Sunday's second semi-final between Cork and Waterford.

Tipperary's demise - while hardly a shock – their form has been erratic since losing that League final to Galway – reinforces the view that the Premier County struggle when it comes to defending All-Ireland titles.

They last won back-to-back titles in 1964-65. Ironically, this was probably their best performance of the championship but it just fell short on the day.
Two missed 65's from Seamus Callanan in the second half proved costly for the Premier County.
There were no changes in personnel on either side and a minimum of positional switches, though the placing of Galway's Niall Burke at wing forward, where he was marked by Padraic Maher, was a surprise.

Galway showed understandable signs of their five week lay off in the early exchanges and Tipperary dominated racing into a 4-1 lead after eight minutes. The Premier County won their first five puck-outs but once they started to struggle in this department Galway got back into the contest. They hit four points in a row between the 9th and 14th minutes to level the tie, and such was the influence of Conor Whelan that Tipperary switched their corner-backs in an effort to curb his influence.
He ended the half with 0-3 while Conor Cooney scored 0-2, but ultimately, it was the Galway full back line which appeared more vulnerable as the half progressed.

But midway through the half it was Galway who were dominating and even though Joe Canning was anonymous in general play the Tribesmen led 0-8-0-6 after 23 minutes.
Then came the first decisive break in the game which ironically began with a mis-hit from Seamus Callanan, which the Galway defence looked to have control of, but corner-back Adrian Tuohy fumbled the ball under pressure from John McGrath, who held his nerve admirably to score the game's opening and what turned out to be the game's only goal, which was a credit to Galway's defence all day.
Galway were level within a minute with a magnificent sideline cut from under the Hogan Stand by Joe Canning and it was nip and tuck from there until half time. Indeed, the sides were level on six occasions in the first half but Tipp edged it at the break (0-12; 1-10).
A feature of the first half was the performance of Canning. He scored 0-4  but missed a routine free; gave away two frees; was booked and had limited involvement in Galway's attacking play. The other feature of the first half was the failure of Galway captain David Burke to make a significant impact with Brendan Maher shading the duel.
Galway had two goal chances in the opening five minutes of the second half but neither Conor Cooney or Joseph Cooney were able to finish the moves, though the latter's effort did ultimately yield a point from a Canning free.

There was literally never more than a puck of a ball between the sides, though Galway kept their noses ahead thanks in the main to a monster free from Joseph Cooney and Joe Canning's first point from play in the 54th minute.

But Tipp stayed in touch and Galway – who had introduced New York based Jonathan Glynn in the 52nd minute – didn't help their cause when they hit three wides on the spin between the 60th and 63rd minute.

John McGrath tied up the game for the ninth time a second later before another long range point from under the Cusack Stand from the now on fire Canning edged Galway back in front.
But it was level again with four minutes of normal time remaining when John O'Dwyer hit his third point from play after Seamus Callanan had missed a 65.

Canning was now the dominant figure on the field and he converted another monster free in the 67th minute to put his side one clear again.
The game was still in the melting pot as Galway corner forward Conor Whelan got in a timely tackle on Michael Cahill, who was about to shoot for the equaliser, but Brendan Maher calmly slotted the equaliser from a free at midfield to level the tie again.

But inevitably there had a dramatic conclusion; Joe Canning had a free to win win from inside the Galway 45 after full back Daithi Burke made a crucial catch.
It dropped short, and was initially swooped clear by goalkeeper Darren Gleeson, but the subsequent clearance was snapped up by Johnny Coen, who drove forward before passing back to Joe Canning who was on the Cusack Stand sideline before curling over the winning point six seconds over the allotted four minutes of injury time.
A fitting climax to a wonderful game.

After a tough and thrilling semi-final, Galway's tag as favourites for this year's All Ireland title remain on course.