This week’s Wednesday Whinge is directed towards the Galway hurlers. The game with Kilkenny has received a lot of coverage on our pages. This week’s rant is directed towards the way they managed to fall into the exact same trap as they did last September.
Ger Loughnane was the first man to really vocalise his criticism of Galway after Sunday’s game. His words were not very well received and maybe he was not the best man to deliver these harsh words having failed to achieve a whole lot in his time as Galway manager.
But Galway need to be realistic here and realise that Loughnane’s words held a big degree of substance. Last Sunday was Galway’s first chance for redemption since last year’s All-Ireland final.
Everybody wondered what happened to Galway in the second-half. Fair enough, Kilkenny deserved credit for turning things around but Galway had a lot of questions to answer. The players spoke and after a long debacle their manager, Anthony Cunningham, stepped down after the players voiced the lack of confidence they had in him.
Last Sunday presented Galway with a massive opportunity. But almost the exact same scenario unfolded. Galway dominated the first-half exchanges, only to falter in the second. Again Kilkenny upped the ante, but that is where the criticism comes in; Galway crumbled under this surplus pressure.
It is not nice to say that about players, but Galway must face up to the facts. Both from a players and a management’s perspective, they got it very very wrong. Particularly after last September, more of the flack should fall on the players.
They were the ones who were there last September, and they were the ones who made the stance. They should have been prepared for what was coming last Sunday, but they weren’t. And if they claim they were, then it is even more reason to suggest that the faded when the Cats came at them with force.
At this stage everybody knows about Kilkenny’s exceptional work-rate and tackling. Every game they target the third quarter as the time to go after teams and put them to the sword. Galway know this, or at least they should, and instead of upping their intensity, they dropped and stepped away from the plan that was exposing Kilkenny’s weaknesses.
Galway played a great support play and running game in the first half. They stopped Kilkenny from making the big hits by offloading the ball before contact and got their match up’s spot on at the back where the Kilkenny forward’s failed to make any significant impact on the game.
The way they capitulated in the second-half deserves stick. After the stance they took last September, they really have to be prepared to dodge the bullets that will be thrown at them. The main thing that stood out was that Galway completely stopped what they had been doing in the first half.
Instead of matching the Kilkenny intensity, they succumbed to it. They stopped the running game and began to hit a host of long clearances up the field. So instead of running the ball through Kilkenny’s midfield and half-back line, they lost all composure under pressure and instead of continuing the running game, they began to strike the ball long.
In striking the ball long, they simply played into Kilkenny’s hands as they will catch ball in the air all day long. As Cyril Farrell would say, it’s like giving nuts to a monkey.
Galway’s move away from their plan showed a huge lack of mental strength. They allowed Kilkenny to grind them down. After last September, they should never have allowed that to happen.
The Galway management may also have been a bit naïve. But taking over a job in the manner which they did should leave no margin for error. That All-Ireland should have been watched over and over until mistakes were spotted and rectified. Last Sunday showed that Galway learned very little from the game.
Galway talked the talk and did not walk the walk. They did not follow up their actions and they must be prepared to take the condemnation that comes their way.
Galway’s season is not yet over. But the only way they can now cover their backs is if they win three matches on the bounce to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup. And these games could potentially see them face Clare, Tipperary and Kilkenny again.
They could yet have the last laugh, they have scope to learn and they have shown patches of ability to beat anybody.
We will have to wait and see, but to live in the present, Galway must be criticised for crumbling under pressure in the second half of the Leinster final.