Galway are through to the All-Ireland semi-final for the second year in a row after defeating Clare on a scoreline of 2-17 to 0-17 at Semple Stadium, Thurles today.
A relentless work rate and composed heads were critical to the Tribesmen’s success over Davy Fitzgerald’s Clare side.
Having played with the wind in the first half, Galway were boosted significantly when Joe Canning rifled the ball to the back of the net in the first minute of the second half.
They lead by 2-10 to 0-06 before Clare began to stage a comeback. However, Galway’s composure was admirable and never did they look in real danger of losing the game.
There were some fine individual performances from Micheál Donoghue’s side. Collectively, the defensive effort was superb. Daithi Burke was in command at the edge of the square while debutant Adrian Tuohy was fantastic at wing-back. Aidan Harte was superb in the sweeper role.
Up front, it was Joe Cooney and Joe Canning who shone. Notably, Galway’s work rate up front was massive. Although, their scoring prowess wasn’t as evident as usual, Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan and Jason Flynn contributed to many turnovers high up the pitch.
The man who impressed most hasn’t been mentioned yet and that man is Galway’s captain David Burke. The St. Thomas’ man lead by example from the middle of the pitch. Covering acres of ground, Burke was central to everything good about Galway today.
Tactically, Galway were spot on and although Clare’s tactics contributed to their own downfall, it was Michéal Donoghue and his selectors who provided Davy Fitzgerald with plenty of headaches during the contest.
Pushing up on the Clare puck-outs was a bold call from Donoghue. However, it was a call that reaped huge rewards. Clare were forced to go long and Galway dominated the aerial battle.
In the air, there are few teams with more ball winners than this Galway team. Only Kilkenny and Tipperary rival the men from the west and it’s no coincidence that these three teams are considered the best in the land.
Winning primary possession in the modern day is vital and Galway have many players capable of doing so.
When the heat came on in the second-half, Galway’s leaders came to the light. Having given a severely disappointing second-half display in the Leinster final, Galway came in for a lot of criticism. A leader-less team was one term that was mentioned in relation to the Galway hurlers.
However, David Burke and Joe Canning in particular were the two that visibly took the game by the scruff of the neck and guided Galway back to Croke Park for an All-Ireland semi-final.
Tipperary will be favourites for the semi-final but Galway will be dangerous coming in under the radar.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena