Think back four years — if that had happened, Kilkenny would have ended up winning by 40 points while Galway would have done little to stop them.
But they didn’t. So, what has happened in the meantime? Not alone did Galway come back, they actually went ahead by nine points in the second half — that’s an 18 point turnaround. Kilkenny then came back, to within a goal, but still Galway were the ones in control at the final whistle, and won by four.
So are we seeing a new mental toughness in Galway, or are we seeing a weakness in Kilkenny that we haven’t seen before, in the Cody era?
Before I attempt to answer that question, a few observations in mitigation of what happened to Kilkenny yesterday: I’d safely say we won’t see this Kilkenny full-back line play together again in the black and amber.
Had that been PJ Ryan instead of Colin McGrath between the posts, you would have expected that two of the goals would have been prevented. There was a definite lack of confidence between goalkeeper and full-back line, a definite loss of confidence, and this was a major factor in the Galway win.
There will surely be repercussions from that from the manager.
This wasn’t down to Kilkenny’s deficiencies, however; this was Galway standing strong, personified by the half-back line of Donal Barry, Tony Óg Regan and Adrian Cullinane.
For a guy who was in trouble early on — and Eoin Larkin certainly got a run on him in those opening minutes — Tony Óg settled, and in the process settled all those around him. Ger Farragher too really came into the game in midfield, along with David Burke, in a sector where Kilkenny had been dominating. I want to come to the Galway forwards; a few weeks ago I said they had stopped depending on Joe Canning, who is still out injured. Well, yesterday they really drove that home. Five of the starting six scored, but none impressed me more than Iarla Tannian. We all know about his strength but now he’s looking fit, and he was a powerful focal point for this attack. He got great assistance though from Joe Gantley, Cyril Donnellan, Aongus Callanan, Andy Smith and Eanna Ryan, who worked very hard.
One man I want to pick out for Galway, however, and that’s David Collins. He’s back to the form of a few years ago, when he was young hurler of the year, and he was a real driving force for Galway yesterday, my man of the match.
Encouraging times for Galway, and to answer the question above — yes, we’re seeing a new mental toughness in Galway, and their next game, against Dublin in Parnell Park, should be a humdinger.
As for Kilkenny, there was weakness there yesterday, yes, but they have all those fellas still to come back.
They’ll need them.