Almost an hour had passed since Anthony Cunningham shook Anthony Daly’s hand, but the toll of the occasion remained lodged in the tortured tones of the Galway manager’s voice as he pieced together the fragments of defeat.
A first half spent chasing a more honed Dublin side around the Croke Park pitch had cost his side dearly, but he ended most of his replies with expressions of intent and pointing to Kilkenny’s fate in 2012 after they lost this very game to his own side.
“Our congratulations to Dublin,” he rasped. “The better team won on the day. It took us a good while to get going. We were a bit late to the breaking ball there in the middle third. We were a bit off it.
“We came back well and would be happy with a lot of aspects there in the second half, but we still have a lot to work on. We have a bit of catching up to do on Dublin but we’re not out of the championship yet.”
Twice now, against Laois and Dublin, Galway have given their long-suffering supporters reason to despair with stunted performances, but they did at least demonstrate a refusal to accept their lot in a thrilling second half.
More, in fact.
Galway found their rhythm when the game meandered deep into the second half and divested itself of its tactical and structural rigidity, even if their hopes were once again heaped unevenly on Joe Canning’s shoulders.
Had one of those five goal chances, created at both ends during that madcap two-minute spell towards the end, been taken by the Connacht side then they may have pulled off an act of escapology of momentous proportions.
“That’s the championship,” said Cunningham, who was tasting championship defeat as his county’s manager for just the second time. “We were in very hard luck for one or two decisions after that, but it ebbs and flows.
“The tempo of the game at that stage was what we had wanted at the very start. Knowing that we can get to there is very good for us but we have got to deliver on that as well.”
His congratulations to Dublin were sincere and he made them more than once, but he was up front about the disparity in lead-ins both sides had experienced and clearly felt that Dublin’s four games in as many weeks stood to them.
Far from a burden in that last quarter, the muscle memory of those encounters with both Wexford and Kilkenny allowed the capital side to rattle off half-a-dozen unanswered points at the death.
“Four matches versus one match: everyone knows, regardless of whether it is minor or senior or junior, that the more matches you have it builds your confidence and your skill levels.
“We are still looking forward to this day three weeks. As we reminded Dublin there after congratulating them, we are still only one step behind them now and it is do or die the next day.”
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