Revisiting an old game is always interesting, and the 1980 All-Ireland hurling final on All-Ireland Gold is well worth a rewatch — much obliged, TG4 for Sunday’s broadcast.
Galway and Limerick served up an entertaining encounter with plenty of interesting sideshows, from the, ah, attention paid to Bernie Forde and PJ Molloy as they soloed through on goal to PJ’s refusal to place the sliotar before taking a sideline cut.
Decisive umpires are another welcome feature of the game as is the now-defunct habit of bending the hurley before taking a sideline or a free.
Some of the striking isn’t what you’d expect: A player from each team misses a point from 14 metres, yet the sideline cuts of Sylvie Linnane and Seán Foley are top quality, while the Niall McInerney flick back between his feet to Jimmy Cooney would go viral if attempted now.
Yet the game is worth examining in detail under particular headings.
In the very first minute, Conneelly collects a dangerous dropping ball from Limerick’s Ollie O’Connor, just under his crossbar, and is fouled coming out.
In his commentary Micheál Ó hEithir remarks that this could prove a valuable confidence boost for the Galway keeper, and thus it proves: Galway weren’t always well served by netminders, but Conneelly’s quality is a significant contribution to their win here.
Still, two early clearances from Conneelly are half-blocked, though Galway survive on both occasions, before he makes a very good save from Willie Fitzmaurice on 17 minutes, and another neat block three minutes later. A dangerous ball loops high in the goalmouth on 28 minutes but Conneelly bats it outfield despite considerable pressure from Eamon Cregan.
In the second half he begins with two more solid stops, in the 38th and 46th minutes, though in clearing the latter he’s blocked down again. On 50 minutes Conneelly makes a game-turning save from Joe McKenna, and then stops a Cregan close-in free a minute later: The momentum shifts significantly in Galway’s favour.
When McKenna finally goals entering the third quarter Conneelly is blameless, though Cregan’s late penalty gets past him. There’s still time for two more solid stops, in the 65th and 69th minute: Vital interventions given Galway’s eventual winning margin is four points.
There’s no suspense here: Both keepers go long all day. The notion of a short delivery to the corner-back to retain possession is still decades in the future. Galway face the breeze in the first half but exert far more pressure on their opponents: Limerick ’keeper Tommy Quaid takes 13 puck-outs to Michael Conneelly’s tally of nine.
Quaid goes long — very long — dropping the ball behind the Galway half-back line in the first half. Interestingly, though Galway begin much better with that Bernie Forde goal, as soon as Limerick start to win puck-outs — their own and Galway’s — they close the gap on their opponents quickly.
They collect four puck-outs in a row approaching the 17th minute to close within two points of Galway. Still, Conneelly’s last puck-out of the half ends in a good Noel Lane point, a fair reflection of the greater return the Westerners enjoy from their restarts.
In the second half Quaid is again the busier of the two, taking 11 puck-outs to Conneelly’s seven.
Significantly, Galway manage two points directly from those puck-outs, the kind of efficient score every manager loves.
By contrast, Limerick lose four of their first five puck-outs to their opponents, making it all the more difficult for them to reel in Galway’s lead. All through the game Galway’s ability to profit from their puck-outs is a key to their eventual victory.
Connolly’s stirring speech ‘as Gaeilge’ is many people’s stand-out memory of this All-Ireland final, but the Galway captain gave a performance which embodied the old-fashioned advice given to old-fashioned centre-forward for years: To keep the ball going at all costs into the inside forwards.
In the first couple of minutes he feeds older brother John for a decent chance, and then follows up to contest an attempted Limerick clearance, helping to set up Bernie Forde’s goal. Seven minutes later he wins a free and points it, but then his marker Mossy Carroll gets on top, clearing three balls in a row before Connolly wins two balls in the 16th and 17th minutes.
The captain points a 26th-minute free and then drops a point effort short a minute later (which is taken bravely in the air by Tommy Quaid). Carroll wins their next two duels, but Connolly finishes the half in credit: He hustles through on 31 minutes to win a 65 (not pointed) and places brother John for a good point before the break.
Connolly resumes with a point and a wide in the opening five minutes of the second half, but the game bypasses him until the 50th minute, when he concedes a free. Conneelly’s long puck-outs take Connolly out of the game on the restarts and on 59 minutes he fouls Liam O’Donoghue, earning a talking-to from the referee.
Again, however, he finishes well — with a pointed free on 63 minutes, and a first-time pull two minutes later that whistles past the goalpost. Four points to the captain’s credit at the finish.
Cregan has over a decade of service in green and white at this stage for Limerick but his class is undimmed in this game.
His marker Conor Hayes beats him to the first ball, but Cregan deflects home a high ball for Limerick’s first goal on 10 minutes, then adds a free two minutes later. On 12 minutes he sells Hayes a beautiful dummy and points from the wing.
Hayes then gets to grips with his man, winning three balls in a row before another Cregan free on 25 minutes (at this stage the only Limerick player to have scored).
Before half-time Cregan hits two more frees but his only chance from play drops short, with Hayes putting him under pressure.
Cregan’s efficiency continues after the half-time break when moved to full-forward. He flicks over Limerick’s opening point and then blocks Galway ‘keeper Conneelly two minutes later.
Niall McInerney beats him in the next two clashes but Cregan then goes for goal from a free on 52 minutes, only for Connelly to save.
On 55 minutes Cregan points yet another free, and a minute later he tries to pick out Dave Punch with a killer pass but it’s cut out; six minutes later he wins and buries a penalty.
With five minutes left Cregan slips a terrific pass to Jimmy Carroll, giving the midfielder a clear sight of the posts, and on 68 minutes he almost puts Joe McKenna through with a clever hand pass, only for Hayes to intercept.
Even in the 70th minute he goes for goal from a close-in free, only to see the ball deflected over the bar.
Cregan ends the game with 2-7: Good going for a 35-year-old.