We don’t wish to burst Dublin’s bubble but Nicky English’s comments about Parnell Park came to mind after this remarkable game.
Reduced right down to warfare and man-on-man combat in the Championship’s smallest ground, Dublin thrived, overpowering Galway in a memorable arm-wrestle.
They remain unbeaten there in the league and Championship under Mattie Kenny and lost just three spring or summer games at the venue in Anthony Daly’s six seasons.
It’s almost unfair, Tipp’s English claimed, to ask other teams to play there, an intriguing point Galway may even agree with now though he made a more pertinent one when he queried how Dublin can hope to contest for the really big prizes at Croke Park if they’re conditioning themselves for Parnell Park.
“The team that’s going to prosper in the close confines of Parnell Park is unlikely to prosper in Croke Park, where you have to go if you’re going to win anything,” said English back in April.
We’ll park that one for now and give Dublin the benefit of the doubt that when it comes to even bigger games on grander pitches, they’ll adapt.
They’re on an upward graph under Mattie Kenny and deserve to have far greater ambitions than just beating Laois or Westmeath — the Joe McDonagh Cup winners — in a preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final on July 6/7.
This was Dublin at their best; aggressive, hard hitting, sometimes snarling and always energetic. There was real quality to their play too as they sniped three goals in a game that was level 18 times. Chris Crummey’s 68th minute net blast ultimately broke Galway’s resolve and, by virtue of Wexford and Kilkenny drawing elsewhere, ended the 2017 All-Ireland champions’ summer.
“I thought we played really, really well down in Kilkenny too, I don’t think we got the credit we deserved for the 50 or 55 minutes hurling down there,” said Dublin manager Kenny.
“We just switched off for a few minutes and it cost us. We played really well against Wexford, allowed two sucker goals to go in. So this wasn’t a flash in the pan. These lads have shown really good form right through the Championship and if we were to go out I’d have been really, really disappointed because I could see the potential in these lads.
“I could see how well they were hurling. It was a difficult ask for the guys. As you could see, we were without a lot of players, down six or seven top class players. We had Eoghan O’Donnell then going off early and we had to empty the bench. It just shows you there is more depth in the Dublin squad than maybe people were giving them credit for.”
The pitch invasion afterwards contrasted sharply with the sombre mood after last year’s battling but narrow loss to Kilkenny there. They also pushed Galway and Wexford close last year under Pat Gilroy but lost those matches as well.
“Moral victories are (no good),” said Kenny. “It was a massive game of hurling there. If we ended up with a draw or Galway won by a point people would be saying, ‘It was a great game of hurling’. But these Dublin players would say they’re tired of moral victories and they want to start getting real victories. In fairness to them, they’re after delivering on that.”
Kenny, who guided Cuala to back to back All-Ireland wins, said the atmosphere was electric in a packed out Parnell Park.
Playing in these smaller stadiums, it just shows you the atmosphere you can generate. From talking to some of the Galway people afterwards, they’re very disappointed but they said, ‘What a game of hurling. What an atmosphere. What a night’.
Kenny was a Galway selector in 2012 when the Tribesmen took Kilkenny to an All-Ireland final replay. He came up against many of the same players this time including Joe Canning who returned from a long-term groin injury in the 47th minute and nailed two points.
Kenny insisted it wasn’t about beating Galway for him but simply winning a crucial game.
“I’m not here to beat Galway,” he said. “I’m six years working in Dublin and my job is to get the best out of these guys. That was my only focus.”
But it could have went either way in a game that was level 10 times in the second-half alone.
From the Chris Crummey/Johnny Glynn duel to Liam Rushe’s efforts to shake off Aidan Harte and later Daithí Burke, it was gripping stuff.
The hits were huge and the intensity off the charts as two groups of players who have came to blows in the past tore into eachother.
Galway led 0-12 to 1-8 at half-time but needed a burst of four points in a row late in the half to open up that advantage.
By that stage they’d lost Conor Whelan to injury and with Canning still on the bench, it was Cathal Mannion who took on the scoring burden.
Eamon Dillon, fresh off 2-2 against Carlow, sniped a trademark solo goal for Dublin before that four-in-a-row of Galway points.
The second-half was even more entertaining with Galway continuously moving ahead only to be reeled back in.
But it was Dublin’s night and two moments late on summed up their character and quality.
First, goalkeeper Alan Nolan boomed over a score from play from deep within his own half. Then as Dublin rallied they grabbed that Crummey goal when he was fed by sub Ronan Hayes and barged his way through the Galway defence.
Scorers for Dublin:
O. O’Rorke (0-9, 5 frees, 1 65); E. Dillon (1-1); S. Moran (pen), C. Crummey (1-0 each); C. Keaney (0-3); D. Sutcliffe, C. Boland (0-2 each); L. Rushe, A. Nolan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway:
C. Mannion 0-9 (7 frees); David Burke, J. Flynn (0-3 each); J. Canning (0-2); C. Callanan (1 free), J. Coen, D. Glennon, C. Whelan, B. Concannon, J. Cooney, P. Mannion (0-1 each).
A. Nolan; P. Smyth, E. O’Donnell, S. Barrett; S. Moran, C. Hendricken, C. Crummey; S. Treacy, T. Connolly; C. Keaney, C. Boland, D. Sutcliffe; L. Rushe, O. O’Rorke, E. Dillon.
J. Madden for O’Donnell (15); F. Whitely for Boland (47) D. Grey for Hendricken (51); D. O’Connell for Treacy (57) R. Hayes for Rushe (65).
C. Callanan; D. Morrissey, Daithi Burke, A. Harte; P. Mannion, J. Cooney, G. McInerney; J. Coen, David Burke; J. Glynn, C. Mannion, A. Tuohey; B. Concannon, J. Flynn, C. Whelan.
D. Glennon for Whelan (26); J. Canning for Tuohey (47); N. Burke for Concannon (54); T. Monaghan for N. Burke (61); S. Linnane for Coen (70).
C McAllister (Cork).