AS the dying embers were reached in this Division 1A hurling league encounter in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday, the theme of draws in Anthony Cunningham’s weekend looked like continuing.
On Saturday in Croke Park his Garrycastle charges could not be separated from Crossmaglen Rangers in the All-Ireland Club football decider and a share of the points between Galway and Cork looked on the cards, as the score stood at 2-13 to 1-16 in the closing moments.
But a late show by his precocious young attacker Niall Burke ensured Cunningham’s weekend of sporting endeavours concluded on a joyous note. A fine team move involving David Burke and Joseph Cooney released the Oranmore-Maree player in the 69th minute, and as the ball hopped before him, he connected to whip a sublime strike to the roof of the net. Burke applied the finishing touches when lofting over a point from the wing in injury-time and Galway were left to reflect on a four-point victory that had looked improbable when they trailed by eight points during the first-half.
“It was a great finish, just clipping it first time and probably reminiscent of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s goals here in former times,” was Cunningham’s description of that late goal. The manner of the Tribesmen’s second-half revival pleased him greatly.
“We’d very poor shooting early on. There were 17 chances created in the first-half and we only converted seven. There was a bit of naivety maybe after last weekend when we played well with a lot of younger guys thinking they just had to turn up today. But there’s good spirit here. We told the guys at half-time we were going to have to take the game to Cork and stop standing off them.”
Cork boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy was left scratching his head at the final whistle. All the portents in the first-half suggested they were set to maintain their recent winning streak since he assumed the Rebel managerial reins once more. Shane O’Neill, John Gardiner and Sean Óg Ó hAilpín were all hurling with authority while Conor Lehane continued his top-class marksmanship, the Midleton youngster ending up with 0-5 from play. When Cathal Naughton found the net with aplomb in the 28th minute, after lovely approach work from Patrick Cronin and Paudie O’Sullivan, Cork had stormed 1-7 to 0-2 clear. Yet, at the end, they had nothing to show for their afternoon’s work.
“We were very pleased with our first-half display but for some reason we seemed to lose that level of intensity,” reasoned Barry-Murphy afterwards. “Eight points is a big lead to lose and it was a big turnaround when we ended up losing by four. We’ll have to look at it but, overall, there were some positives with the performance. I thought Damien Cahalane was outstanding at full-back in his first game. Brian Murphy and Shane O’Neill were excellent as well. We were lucky maybe to win in Croke Park last week and there are lessons to be learned now.”
There were signs Cunningham has imbued a sense of resilience in his Galway team as they overhauled Cork in the second-half. Eight of the U21 side he guided to All-Ireland glory last September were in the starting line-up while two more were sprung from the bench. They are starting to prosper on the senior stage and it was Galway’s scoring spree before the interval that proved crucial in bridging the gap.
They struck five points after the concession of that goal to Naughton to trail 1-9 to 0-7 at the interval. Substitute Davy Glennon sparkled when introduced, David Collins anchored their challenge at the back while David and Niall Burke, Damien Hayes and Andy Smith helped correct the woeful shooting that had blighted their first-half performance.
Cork could never manage to regain their first-half form. They only managed four points in the second-half with O’Sullivan the only player other than Lehane to raise a white flag. Cork were rattled when Damien Hayes bundled to the net in the 53rd minute, after Joseph Cooney had managed to block a Donal Óg Cusack clearance, but responded splendidly three minutes later when O’Sullivan lobbed a brilliantly weighted cross to Lorcan McLoughlin who finished calmly past James Skehill.
From there to the finish a hitherto uninspiring game was ignited and there was fine entertainment for the 12,821 spectators in the last quarter. The sides were level on three occasions and it was only Burke’s defining scoring salvo that saw the match swerve off that course of equanimity.
“We were lucky in the finish, I thought a draw would probably have been a fair result, but we’ll take the win,” admitted Cunningham. “We’ve a young team, we need to be patient with them and it’ll take time. But they’re working hard and we’re happy with them.”
Scorers for Galway: N Burke 1-10 (0-7f), D Hayes 1-1, A Smith, D Burke 0-2 each, D Glennon 0-1.
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 0-6 (0-6f), C Lehane 0-5, C Naughton, L McLoughlin 1-0 each, P O’Sullivan, J Coughlan 0-1 each.
Subs for Galway: C Donnellan for Cooney (25), D Glennon for Regan (25), J Cooney for Tannian (49), T Haran for Hayes (67).
Subs for Cork: D Sweetnam for Naughton (56), M O’Sullivan for Horgan (62), N McCarthy for Kenny (67).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).
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