In a hurling championship that has disappointed to date on the field, it was lit up off the field on Sunday by the remarkable story of Davy Fitzgerald and the touch of class from Joe Canning.
After Waterford and Wexford played out a lacklustre affair, it was up to Clare and Galway to produce an entertaining game. That it was.
The difference in quality between the first and the second game was staggering. The intensity and physicality was significantly upped and it was a far more entertaining contest.
There was some fantastic individual displays. Colm Galvin shone for the Banner on what was a disappointing afternoon for Davy Fitzgerald’s side. The Clonlara midfield maestro chipped in with five points from play.
For Galway, they had star-performers all over the pitch. Daithí Burke and Adrian Tuohy marshalled the defence while David Burke and Joe Canning displayed true leadership qualities in the heat of the battle.
After the game, Canning went on to say that there is more to life than sport. A statement that has received a lot of public attention since. The statement is a refreshing one and it has put a perspective on this year’s so-called disappointing championship.
Yes, it has been a disappointing one but as Canning said, ”our health is our wealth”. It was remarkable to see Davy Fitzgerald on the sideline in Thurles last Sunday after the week he had.
Health issues saw the Sixmilebridge man spend a couple of nights in hospital in Dublin. He underwent minor heart surgery and had two stents inserted. Despite not being discharged until Friday, Fitzgerald made it to the sideline on Sunday.
It was a demonstration of remarkable passion and determination. Fitzgerald was gracious in defeat and paid a classy tribute to the Tribesmen.
Speaking to RTÉ, Fitzgerald had this to say;
“The energy and enthusiasm from Galway today was absolutely incredible, they way they tackled, the way they hassled. Whatever about ourselves, I have to say the passion they showed was first class. From a Clare man I’d like to say well done to them. I thought they did very well. On the day I believe they were the better team, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a long time since I’ve seen Galway as fired up.”
The reason that Galway were so fired up was largely down to the fact that they were so heavily criticised in the wake of their Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny. A lot of that criticism was unnecessary. The Tribesmen were under huge pressure to perform last Sunday.
Canning’s post-match interview came with a hint of emotion. One could sense the relief after the Portumna star had delivered one of his best performances in a Galway jersey. It was no where near his best in terms of scoring but Canning’s sheer work-rate and presence around the field was admirable.
No team or player should have to endure as much unwarranted criticism as Canning and Galway received. The Portumna man reminded us all that the GAA is still an amateur organisation. As Canning said;
”There’s more important things in life than sport. We’re amateur players at the end of the day and our health is our wealth.”
Canning’s comments and Davy’s determination, passion and class demonstrated what the GAA is all about. The mutual respect that both sides have for each other was a joy to see.
The win for Galway was special but what happened post-match was special for the whole GAA community. It was refreshing to see and it has put perspective on the negative aspects of this year’s championship.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena