Over the last while, I’ve been listening to Alan O’Mara’s excellent podcast ‘Real Talks’.
The concept was initially inspired by O’Mara’s battle with depression, and many of his interview subjects have openly spoken about the various battles they’ve routinely fought, or the difficult circumstances they’ve had to overcome, in their daily lives.
It’s mostly a chat about life lessons, leadership, resilience and purpose and one of the best interviews O’Mara conducted was with the former Kildare player, Dermot Earley Junior. His late father, Dermot, was one of the greatest footballers never to win an All-Ireland, and in discussing how he coped with his loss, Dermot Jnr gave a revealing insight into his father’s thinking.
He had a unique relationship with his father but Dermot Jnr was also very aware from a young age that his father was someone very special as a player. He tried to tap into that knowledge and insight but, while his father would offer him advice, Dermot Snr was more inclined to guide than to direct.
That is something I have always been very strong on. I have repeatedly said as much to the Kilmacud Crokes players throughout this season: “Lads, we can guide it but ye have to drive the machine forward.”
That whole philosophy, that governing purpose, heavily defined Galway yesterday. Micheál Donoghue guided the ship. And the players firmly steered it.
Having a leader, and a dressing room so firmly behind him, can be a powerful weapon. Donoghue set the tone from the word go by dropping Conor Cooney, who was on the shortlist for Hurler of the Year last year. The message was loud and clear. ‘Hi, nobody is untouchable on this team.’ And the players emphatically responded.
Guys who were below par or anonymous last week were immense, especially in the first half; John Hanbury, David Burke, Johnny Coen, Conor Whelan. Galway players all over the field hunted Kilkenny down in packs. And descended upon them like ravenous dogs.
You have to give huge credit to Kilkenny. The game looked over after 20 minutes when they trailed by 11 points. Scrubbing out that lead didn’t look possible against a rampant Galway side but with Cody’s Kilkenny, impossible is always nothing. And when Richie Hogan reduced the deficit to one, the impossible certainly looked on.
Galway steadied themselves and drove on but it still took a while to extricate themselves from Kilkenny’s grasp. Hogan had three wides in the second half. Conor Fogarty had a shot for a point waved over, before being called back by Hawkeye. Galway had sniped a point just prior to that chance and, while that Kilkenny attempt would still have only reduced the deficit to one, it felt like a momentum-shifter. It was, because Galway owned the game from that moment until the final whistle.
Cody deserves a lot of credit for how his teams continue to reflect his personality but he doesn’t always get it right either. None of us have any real right to question the great man but starting Billy Ryan on Daithí Burke wasn’t a good call, especially after Billy had such a fine game in the corner last Sunday. Enda Morrissey was struggling but did Rob Lennon make much of a difference when he replaced Morrissey? Cathal Mannion went to town altogether on Lennon.
Mannion was superb. Johnny Glynn was brilliant too. He got some big scores but a large part of Galway’s struggles stemmed from their failure to feed Johnny enough. Galway were playing more crossfield balls and Kilkenny were cutting them out. They arrested that in the last quarter but Padraig Walsh was wrestling with Johnny, refusing to let him win the ball cleanly, and Paul Murphy was snapping up the breaks on the deck.
The first half was one-way traffic but Galway’s class and brilliance shored up any deficit in entertainment, while the second half fully compensated with high drama. The only negative of the game was the amount of time we spent looking at the town-end scoreboard for Hawkeye decisions. At one stage, I was nearly going to head up town for a bag of chips. I’d probably have had time too to order a Hawaiian burger.
I was half tempted to actually go to the ‘Town House Deli’, which is advertised just below the scoreboard. I’d say I wasn’t the only one. Whoever owns or runs that place got a bumper marketing day out of yesterday. Because over 25,000 of us spent half the day looking at that sign.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) July 8, 2018
At one stage, just before the break, I took out my phone and used my stopwatch to record the length of time waiting for the decision to come through — 51 seconds. I was in for the minor match beforehand and the amount of Hawkeye decisions in that game too was off the charts. I’m surprised the senior match started on time.
I fully understand the reasons for using Hawkeye when it’s available but that system in Thurles is driving everyone mad. They need to upgrade it but the umpires also need to up their game and not be looking for Hawkeye to bail them out as much as they are. I was behind Conor Cooney’s late shot and everyone in the Kinnane Stand could see that it was clearly inside the post.
Kilkenny are still in the championship but staying alive won’t get any easier against a young, fresh, ferocious and hungry Limerick team this weekend. Kilkenny were on their knees in 2013 after losing a replay to Dublin and they still took down Tipperary the following week. But that’s five years ago now and Kilkenny no longer have the same level of experience on board. Limerick have a chance now to beat them for the first time since 1973 but, like the Waterford game last year, and yesterday, Kilkenny will not lie down.
That resoluteness and never say-die-attitude from Kilkenny has contributed so much to this championship because we’ve seen it now on four occasions, against Dublin, Wexford and Galway (twice). This championship keeps on giving but I was reading Tomás Ó Sé on Saturday saying that he was sick and tired of listening to all these hurling snobs sticking their noses up to football by proclaiming God’s game. Well Tomás is going to have to listen to the snobs for a lot longer if the footballers don’t raise their game. If you wanted to torture fellas, you’d force them to watch that Cork-Tyrone match on Saturday.
Anyway, we don’t have to go too far for our own taste of snobbery and exclusivity. On my way into the match yesterday, I got talking to a steward who wasn’t impressed to see Leinster and Connacht folk on his terrain.
“This shouldn’t be let in here at all,” he said in his distinct Tipp accent. “Let them play it above in Tullamore or someplace else. Let them toss for it. This is no place for a Leinster final.”
That’s what you call begrudgery. Or real Munster hurling snobbery.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved