For the second time in 14 days, fortune did indeed favour them before throw-in but it’s what they did complemented by that breeze advantage that was beguiling.
Convincing? We’ll hold off on making that assessment. Galway will face opposition in 13 days’ time that won’t be as naive as Dublin were or as convoluted as Laois.
They deserve credit for how they went about unlocking Laois’s packed defence but the sense that they’ve yet to be truly tested is hard to shake off.
Anthony Cunningham couldn’t give a proverbial. At the same Tullamore venue this very weekend last year, he was looking down the barrel of a defeat to Kilkenny, only for his men to pull off a rescue. Yet six days later they were gone from Leinster and seven days after, Tipperary expunged them from the championship.
If Galway are having it easy, it’s about time, he says. After the defeat in Semple Stadium last year, he seemed a tad desperate as he spoke about his team being on the right road despite the two defeats in the space of a week. But Saturday was further proof that they are making the kind of progress that everyone, not just he, can see.
“To be fair, last year we drew with Kilkenny here and had to play a replay in six days and another week had to go down to Semple Stadium and had it almost won. Three massive games in 13 days, and (we) didn’t get the credit. They’re hard at the best of times and we got a nicer run this year.”
Quite a telling quote from Cunningham but just as revealing was his comment when it was put to him that Galway are finally finding some consistency.
Saturday sealed their first back-to-back championship wins since 2012.
“That’s something we work hard on. The talent is there and it’s a need to get the bit between the teeth.
“They need that. It’s not all about hurling in this world; it’s really who wants it the most and that has been proven time and again.”
Unlike the Offaly game when he got the bounce he demanded upon returning to his post six days after he left it, Seamus “Cheddar” Plunkett saw little galvanising spirit from his charges.
“We just didn’t fire up and give the performance we expected and wanted to give to the supporters. There’ll be other days, I’m sure. We just have to stick closer together and keep our eyes on the ball.”
Up until the 17th minute, Laois’s set-up had perplexed Galway and the sides were even before a Joe Canning free. By that stage in the quarter-final replay with Dublin, Galway were already 3-8 to 0-1 up. Assigning so many players to their defence, Laois had readied themselves to deny Galway the goals that buttress so many of their wins.
A goal did come in the 18th minute when a long ball from Johnny Coen took one bounce before finding the net. It might have been a freak score but it indicated another way to Galway: if they couldn’t go through Laois, they would go over them. In the next seven minutes, Coen was joined on the scoreline by his full-back colleagues.
It wasn’t until the 22nd minute that Canning became Galway’s first forward to score from play but by then they had cracked Laois, who looked spooked when asked to produce anything more than their rearguard action. Tommy Fitzgerald’s 14th minute point was their second and last of the half as Galway went 1-16 without reply to lead 1-18 to 0-2 at the break.
Much like against Dublin, Galway killed off any remote chance of a comeback with second-half goals. Stephen Maher did find the net for Laois in the 45th minute but Canning fielded well before finishing four minutes later and then substitute Davy Glennon added another with 12 minutes left when he looked to have been fouled but managed to score with his hand.
Cunningham, who said he hopes Jason Flynn’s broken finger will be okay by Sunday week’s Leinster final, had every right to show some pride afterwards.
“I’d say it’s the best panel we’ve had over the last three or four years. We’ve done an awful lot of work with John Hanbury, Cathal Mannion is still U21, Jason Flynn is still U21, Shane Moloney and we’ve a few more guys who will see championship. It’s very, very strong, it’s very competitive. I can only name 26, it’s hard luck on three or four who can’t tog today.”
Luck, though, seems to be turning in Galway’s favour.
J Canning (1-15, 9 frees, 2 65s); D Glennon (1-2); J Coen (1-0); David Burke, P Mannion, N Healy, A Smith (0-2 each); J Hanbury, C Mannion, P Brehony (0-1 each).
Z Keenan (0-5, 3 frees, 2 65s); S Maher (1-1); P Purcell (0-3); P Whelan (0-2); T Fitzgerald, C Dwyer, J Campion (0-1 each).
C Callanan; P Mannion, J Hanbury, J Coen; Daithí Burke, I Tannian, D Collins; A Smith, A Harte; C Mannion, C Donnellan, J Canning, David Burke, J Glynn, N Healy.
D Glennon for N Healy (40); J Cooney for C Donnellan (48); P Brehony for A Harte (52); G McInerney for D Collins (56); C Moore for C Mannion (61);
E Reilly; B Stapleton, T Delaney, C Healy; M Whelan, J Fitzpatrick, JA Delaney; P Purcell, D Palmer; W Hyland, T Fitzgerald, J Campion; C Dwyer, Z Keenan, S Maher.
P Whelan for JA Delaney (47); N Foyle for J Campion (55); B Conroy for T Fitzgerald (64);
F Horgan (Tipperary).