Apart from a 10-minute spell late in the first-half, when Galway reduced a seven-point deficit to four, there was never a hint the Westerners would win this game against a Cork side who will now meet Kilkenny in the first of two All-Ireland finals on Saturday week.
Fullback John O’Brien was unbeatable against a succession of opponents; Rory Dwyer, who was a late replacement for Séamus Hayes at wing forward, made a major contribution with a goal and four excellent points. And Jonathan O’Callaghan again showed his prowess both from play and frees, scoring eight points.
As defending champions, Galway were forced to field a completely new team and clearly they didn’t have the material to mount a worthwhile defence of their title in a team that lacked any real bite. Only Cathal Dervan, Paul Cooney and Ronan Leonard were up to the standard.
Cork got a perfect start with a point by Rory Dwyer after a minute. Galway levelled it a minute later through Shane Diviney, before the class of the Munster champions began to tell.
Their half-back line of James Hughes, Brendan Lombard and Kevin Hartnett, took complete control. Alan O’Connor and Jason Barrett gave them a firm grip at midfield, all of which meant a plentiful supply of ball to the forwards who made maximum use of it.
Right half-forward Jonathan O’Callaghan’s pace and finish saw him knock over a succession of points and with Dwyer equally effective on the other wing, Cork led 0-6 to 0-1 at the end of the opening quarter and the signs looked ominous for Galway at this early stage.
Cork’s almost incessant pressure on an overworked Galway defence paid a handsome dividend a minute later, when Brendan Coleman’s long delivery broke out to the unmarked Diarmuid O’Riordan. He drove the sliotar to the corner of the Galway net and when O’Callaghan added a point from the puck-out, it looked very much a question of how much Cork were going to win by.
However, Galway, as the defending champions, weren’t prepared to give up their title easily and the switch of Cathal Dervan to centre-forward eventually got their attack moving with a lot more purpose.
Dervan troubled Brendan Lombard with his height and reach and a period of pressure earned them a 20-metre free in the 22nd minute which Dervan struck home for a goal that Galway and the game badly needed.
Taking inspiration from that score, Galway began to exert a lot of pressure on the Cork defence and with Dervan unerring from frees, they had the deficit down to four points, 1-10 to 1-6, at the short whistle.
The sides shared six points in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, before Cork carved out a marvellous second goal when Diarmuid O’Riordan caught Kevin Hartnett’s well-struck line ball before giving the Galway keeper Michael Garvey no chance from 13 metres out.
That score effectively killed off the Galway challenge. Totally in control, Cork began to play the ball around with ease and the points were knocked over with monotonous regularity as the Munster champions led 2-17 to 1-9 at the three-quarter stage.
It was all very academic at this juncture as Cork continued to rule the roost in every sector of the field and it was rough on Galway as they added three further goals to set up a final meeting with Kilkenny.
Scorers for Cork: J. O’Callaghan 0-8 (0-3 frees), D. O’Riordan 2-1, R. Dwyer 1-4, B. Coleman 1-3, V. Morrissey 1-1, J. Quinlan 0-3, J. Murphy, D. Moher, E. Conway 0-1 each.
Galway: C. Dervan 1-4 (1-3 frees), S. Diviney, F. McCarthy 0-2 each, K. Hayes, N. Kelly (free) 0-1 each.
CORK: M. Coleman; M. Prout, J. O’Brien, B. Murphy; J. Hughes, B. Lombard, K. Hartnett; A. O’Connor, J. Barrett; J. O’Callaghan, B. Coleman, R. Dwyer; D. Moher, D. O’Riordan, J. Quinlan. Subs: D. Fitzgerald for Lombard, J. Murphy for Moher, D. Lynch for Murphy, V. Morrissey for Quinlan, O. Conway for O’Riordan.
GALWAY: M. Garvey; A. Burke, P. Cooney, J.J. Shiel; P. Diviney, R. Leonard, E. Donoghue; B. Gantley, J. Farrell; N. Kelly, J. Concannon, K. Hayes; S. Diviney, C. Dervan, F. McCarthy. Subs: K. Briscoe for Burke, D. Reilly for Kelly, R. Grealish for Concannon, P. Hillary for Gantley, M. Fahy for McCarthy.
Referee: P. Neary (Kilkenny).