Since their re-emergence as a hurling power in 1975, Galway have reached 14 All-Ireland hurling finals. Rarely has their presence been accompanied by more hype than this year. The manner of the semi-final win over Tipp seemed to light a fire under things in the west. Yesterday’s match almost resembled a home match for Galway.
In 2012, their semi-final win was a less memorable affair. A goalless five-point win over a novice Cork team, who had done well to get that far. It was the Leinster final from 2012 that has lodged itself in the public memory, when they gobbled up Kilkenny in front of a strikingly small Galway crowd.
It is Kilkenny’s fate to enter Croke Park on All-Ireland day looking like the away side. As downsides to winning All-Irelands go, it is paltry enough. Their supporters are not an especially giddy bunch, and don’t look overawed by the experience of All-Ireland final day. Typically, they generate less noise than the excitable opposing supporters.
At half-time, pessimistic Galway supporters (of which there are unsurprisingly many) might have been inclined to think of 1990, when they hurled beautifully in the first half, and proceeded to concede four goals in the second half - and lose by three.
But most Galway fans seemed powered by the belief which has settled in the place since Shane Maloney’s late winner against Tipp.
Like over-exuberant financiers and property developers in the mid-noughties, they told themselves; this time it’s different.
Alas, Kilkenny were a whirling dervish of aggression in the second-half. The number of rucks and throw balls appeared to increase - always a good sign for Kilkenny. Galway players started making poor decisions due to this frenzied aggression.
Aside from David Collins, Conor Whelan was their only scorer from play in the second-half.
Interestingly, Marty Morrissey remarked that this point came with the assistance of Hawkeye, though we weren’t aware that points awarded in this fashion should be asterisked. (Is Marty revealing himself to be a Luddite?)
It was never going to be enough. This time it wasn’t different. It was all very familiar.
The big winner again was the author of the Rose of Mooncoin, who is really coining it from the Croke Park royalties.
The revolution that ran out of steam
The 2013 season was supposed to herald a new era in hurling— the post-Kilkenny hegemony era to be precise.
Here was a return to the revolution years, when Clare and Limerick were in the ascendant in Munster and glorious possibility beckoned.
Viewed from the perspective of two years hence, the promise of that season looks like a mirage.
The four semi-finalists from that strange year all endured trying seasons — of varying degrees of disappointment.
After two years bursting with promise, Limerick effectively retreated to also-ran status.
Clare continue to lose big games where possible, and even appear to be in danger of stealing Galway’s crown as hurling’s chief enigma.
Any positives from Cork’s season — they did defeat Wexford and Clare — were obliterated by the hammering against Galway.
Even attempting to draw attention to those positives will prompt a flash of disdain from their supporters. It’s clear that Cork do not end the 2015 season in credit.
Dublin, meanwhile, did well to dog it out and scrape a win against Limerick but they hardly resemble the vibrant outfit that won the 2013 Leinster title.
Instead, the 2015 season looks a lot like the 2012 season, with Galway, who barely turned up for the 2013 championship, upsetting the Kilkenny-Tipperary axis.
It’s as though 2013 never happened.
Future hurling historians will gaze at the record books and wonder how the 2013 revolution came to pass.
Protection required for football pundits
How long will it be before RTÉ is forced to invest in round the clock protection for it’s Gaelic football pundits?
It’s only a matter of time before they are ferried around in vehicles with blacked out windows, to and from tribunals of inquiry investigating their contributions on the Sunday Game.
Having allegedly resisted modernity for a very long time, the GAA has embraced post-modernity with gusto.
Discussion about the discussion about the game now exceeds discussion about the games themselves.
The analysis of the analysis on The Sunday Game has reached the stage where it requires it’s own programme, a kind of Big Brother’s Little Brother if you will, preferably broadcast directly after The Sunday Game, where members of the public and a panel of celebrity guests can vent their spleen about the analysis on The Sunday Game.
Joe Brolly once correctly said that punditry is ‘the most important job in Irish society’. And rather like politics, Gaelic football punditry is far too important to be left to Gaelic football pundits.
So, what has been the quality of the analysis of the Sunday Game analysis?
In this column’s view it has been characterised by rampant bias, mean-mindedness and spite, with no appreciation of the difficulties faced by pundits and co-commentators.
It has been both viciously anti-Tyrone and blindly pro-Tyrone. The nadir was reached after the Dublin-Mayo drawn game.
The abuse rained down upon Gaelic football pundits has reached epidemic levels (hurling punditry remains a strangely uncontroversial number).
As Jim McGuinness said earlier in the year (admittedly he was giving out about pundits) ‘there is a difference between opinion and disrespect’.
Michael Cusack - the earliest whinger
In a weekend where Galway contested the All-Ireland final, it’s worth paying tribute to that small sliver of the county where the game never quite died.
Paddy Dolan and John Connolly have detailed that the earliest evidence of written rules for the sport of hurling are the Killimor rules of 1869. The club was based in Ballinasloe and in early 1884, Michael Cusack brought his recently established Dublin Metropolitan side west to play them.
In the years preceding, Cusack had been busy promoting hurling above those ‘alien’ British sports’.
He proudly boasted that hurling was ‘the most dangerous game ever played on this planet. The game was invented by the most sublimely energetic and warlike race the world has ever known’.
Such talk was less in evidence after the Metropolitans had endured their trip to East Galway. The Galway boys beat the s***e out of the Dublin lads and Cusack went whingeing to the Irish Times of all papers, saying that Killimor had ‘slashed in a reckless and savage manner’. All in all, a dispiriting show of unmanliness from the founding father of the GAA.
The match in Tweets
TJ Reid says Kilkenny’s win was”unbelievable”. I’d put a KK win on my Top 3 list of Believable Things along with gravity and rain. #KKvGAL
The Fist Pump count is off the scale #KKvGAL
Old cat for the hard road. But after such a vibrant first half, what the hell happened to Galway?
The famine is over Kilkenny have won their 1st All Ireland since 2014 #GAA #KILvGAL #allirelandfinal
Colin Fennelly tells Clare McNamara @TheSundayGame that Jackie Tyrrell’s talk @ HT was huge inspiration
Watching more and more UK sports hacks rave about GAA. The Sky thing broadening its reach, no question. #KKvGAL