Cork collected two points and built on a good second-half against Kilkenny in their last outing, while Galway took solace in a spirited comeback.
Oh, and both managers were happy to help out every other county by opening up the league.
“It was obvious that if we were beaten here it was a Galway-Kilkenny final, that’s the way it was heading,” said Cork manager Denis Walsh. “By us winning we have opened it up for ourselves and for other teams as well.”
His Galway counterpart was singing from the same hymn sheet.
“If we lose Sunday we’re under pressure even to get to the league final,” said John McIntyre, “But it opens up the league on the other hand.”
Neither side showed much in the early stages yesterday as they racked up five wides between them before five minutes had passed. Then Cork’s Cian McCarthy and Galway’s Eanna Ryan swapped points and they settled.
The score was 0-2 each on 14 minutes when Cork’s Patrick Horgan was floored going through. The Glen Rovers man buried the resultant penalty and gave his side a cushion which was soon extended by Jerry O’Connor, John Gardiner (free) and Cian McCarthy, leaving the hosts 1-5 to 0-2 up.
Galway rallied – on 20 minutes Eanna Ryan made ground through, then parted to Aonghus Callanan, who goaled from close range. That brought Galway within three, but Cork closed out the half with a string of five points, Cian McCarthy’s effort from the wing the pick of the bunch.
When Ger Farragher pointed a free on the half-time whistle it was 1-10 to 1-4, and Galway were struggling.
“We were in big trouble at half-time,” agreed McIntyre. “We missed some routine point-scoring opportunities in the first-half and they came back to haunt us a little. We were in a bit of a hole at half-time and we had two choices – to fill it in a little bit or allow the hole to get bigger, and in fairness to them, they showed a good bit of spirit in the second-half. Six points down against Cork, in front of their supporters on their home turf, and we didn’t wilt. We didn’t fall away.”
They didn’t – Ger Farragher’s accuracy from frees helped reel Cork in. He drove three points on the resumption, and though the hardworking Niall McCarthy responded, Galway had the initiative, as Denis Walsh put it.
“They’re hard to claw back when they get moving like that. The most positive thing I took out of it was we had the hunger, the attitude and the hurling to get out of it. That could easily have slipped into a one-point defeat or a draw.”
Walsh can take comfort from Cork’s ability to stay ahead of Galway, but McIntyre pointed to the fact that when Ger Farragher stood over a 65’ midway through the second-half, the game was level at 1-13 each. However, Farragher hit the post, Cork cleared the ball and swept downfield. Patrick Horgan pointed a free to give Cork another lease of life.
It was a turning point – Galway came with another surge in the closing minutes, and David Burke pointed a free to leave a point between them, but Horgan (free) and Cork sub Cathal Naughton, with two points, made the game safe for the home side.
“We continued to make mistakes (in the second-half), we hit bad wides, but there was nothing wrong with the Galway players’ mindset,” said McIntyre afterwards.
“We just left ourselves with too much to do. I’m not making excuses.
“We have to pick ourselves up because Kilkenny are coming down the tracks on Sunday and that’s a match we want to be competitive in.”
Walsh was happy enough with his side’s second-half: “When we moved up the field in the second-half we always seemed to be able to get a point to go one or two up. Consistency is the name of the game. Anyone that was in Kilkenny wanted to see whether we could do it consistently or if we would just come and go. Thankfully we seemed to be consistent.”
Scorers for Cork: P. Horgan 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-4 fs); C. McCarthy and P. O’Sullivan 0-3 each; J. Gardiner (0-2 fs), C. Naughton, J. O’Connor and N. McCarthy 0-2 each; P. Cronin and L. O’Farrell 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: G. Farragher 0-7 (0-6 fs); A. Callanan 1-2; D. Burke 0-4 (0-2 fs); J. Gantley 0-2; E. Ryan and A. Smith 0-1 each.
Subs for Cork: K. Murphy for L. O’Farrell, 51; L. McLoughlin for J. O’Connor, 54; B. Murphy for Ryan, 57; C. Naughton for T. Kenny, 59.
Subs for Galway: C. Donnellan for Hayes, HT; J. Gantley for E. Ryan, 56; N. Cahalan for Farragher, 63.
Referee: B. Gavin (Offaly).