Apart from the second quarter when Cork scored 1-4 without reply, there was no doubt about the outcome of this clash and champions Galway must now be odds-on to retain their title.
“The start we got was fantastic,” said Galway coach Mattie Murphy.
“I certainly didn’t expect to be 2-5 to nil in front after 10 minutes, but I was surprised that Cork gave us the advantage of the breeze in the first half. It was something I didn’t expect from them.
“The selectors always felt we had a good team to defend our title, and while you have to be thrilled with a display like they gave out there tonight, we still have no silverware to show for it and it would be a complete disaster if we don’t go on a complete the job next month.”
Hurling with massive commitment, passion and skill, Galway’s first goal came after just 20 seconds when Brian Murphy’s effort from near the touchline went all the way to the net.
Powerfully strong in the key areas, the champions were awesome in that opening 10 minutes.
The Cork defence couldn’t cope with Galway forwards Joe Canning and Conor Kavanagh in particular and when the latter drove home a second goal despite the best efforts of Tomas Murray, the Munster side had a mountain to climb.
They battled bravely and their defence finally got to grips with the Galway forwards.
Stephen White and Paudie O’Sullivan took control in the half back line, Cathal Naughton began to rule at midfield and with the Galway scoring machine starved of possession, Cork got on the score-sheet when Naughton raced clear before rifling home a cracking goal in the 12th minute.
Earlier it had taken a magnificent save by Galway ‘keeper James Skehill to deny Patrick Cronin a goal.
Inexplicably, the Galway forwards hit five wides in a row and went 20 minutes without a score as an ever-improving Cork side hit over four points on the trot to trail 1-4 to 2-6 at the break.
“We were never going to keep up the pace of the opening quarter, and Cork were always going to come back at us,” said Murphy.
“Half time gave us the chance to settle the lads down, and the third goal early in the second half by Joe Canning effectively killed off the Cork challenge.
“We are fortunate in Galway that hurling at under age level is very strong at the moment. This present minor team is rich in talent, and I would rate Joe Canning as another Henry Shefflin and that’s high praise indeed.
“Keith Kilkenny did a massive job on Patrick Cronin and when the Cork captain was switched to centre forward he got nothing off Ciaran O’Donovan. I feel our half-back line won the game for us. It was the launching pad for our victory.”
The second half was a one-sided affair as Canning showed his prowess as a free-taker, knocking over four points from placed balls.
Cork did have a chance of a second goal when Colm O’Neill won a penalty, but Patrick Horgan’s effort sailed over the crossbar.
Cork coach Denis Ring offered no excuses: “Galway are an exceptional team and we can have no complaints.
“You cannot afford to give a team an 11-point start and expect to win.
“We did well in the second quarter of the game and looked to be making a match of it, but once they got the third goal we were never going to pull down the lead.
“Galway had players with all the necessary ingredients of physical power, excellent skill and pace and we were blown out of it.”
Scorers for Galway: J Canning 1-6 (0-6 frees); C Kavanagh 2-2; B Murphy 1-0; S Glynn 0-2; J Hughes (free), T Kerrigan, J Greene 0-1 each.
Cork: C Naughton 1-2; P O’Brien, P Cronin (0-1 free) 0-2 each; S Moylan, P O’Sullivan (free), P Horgan (pen.) 0-1 each
GALWAY: J Skehill; A Leech, P Loughnane, P Callanan; J Hughes, C O’Donovan, K Kilkenny; A Keary, F Kerrigan; K Coen, S Glynn, S Howley; C Kavanagh, J Canning, B Murphy.
Subs: A Callanan for Howley; J Greene for Coen; A Harte for Kerrigan; K Keehan for O’Donovan.
CORK: R O’Keeffe; E O’Sullivan, E Dillon, G O’Driscoll; S White, P O’Sullivan, T Murray; P O’Brien, P O’Driscoll; P Cronin, E Murphy, J Halbert; P Horgan, C Naughton, S Moylan.
Subs: C O’Neill for Murphy; P Finnegan for O’Driscoll; D Lynch for Moylan; C O’Driscoll for G O’Driscoll; R Cashman for Lynch.
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).