“Semi-finals are for winning.”
Anthony Cunningham couldn’t have put it more succinctly about a Galway performance yesterday which will hardly have Kilkenny and Tipperary in a cold sweat.
But it was all about the result, nothing else. After a lengthy lay-off from the Leinster final, there was bound to be rust and a few psychological hang-ups, perhaps.
In the end, though, it looked comfortable.
“Yeah, I think we got a bit of a hold on the match, five or 10 minutes into the second half, but it was nip and tuck and then we stretched on two or three points.
“Cork rallied again, with 10 minutes to go, and Pa Cronin was very close to getting a goal there, he was in on goal and it just went over the bar.
“But it was that type of a game, it was always going to be that type of a game with Galway and Cork. It was always going to be open hurling and good scores.
“We got a stronghold on the game and kept our noses in front. I would say we upped our work-rate and the intensity of our play in the second half, particularly the middle-third, and that helped us along the way.”
Cunningham, who said hand injury victim Cyril Donnellan should be fit to start the final, praised his defence for their resilience in the second half, holding Cork to just four points from play.
“Fergal Moore, Johnny Coen, Niall Donoghue. Tony Regan upped his game again, Davy Collins was good as was Kevin [Hynes] even though a lot of ball didn’t go his way. Johnny and Niall were tremendous, alright.”
Flanked by selectors Mattie Kenny and Tom Helebert in the post-match press conference room, Cunningham was keen to give his right-hand men the opportunity to air their views to the media.
Mattie Kenny fielded a question about the win being the perfect way to win an All-Ireland semi-final as it had room for improvement.
“I think our team have developed a lot this year. Cork put us to the pin of our collar. You go back to the Leinster final and we got a very good start. Today we didn’t get that start and it was level at half-time.
“Galway grew as the second half went on. Our defence was particularly pleasing and we got the scores when we needed them.
“It was different to the last day but it was a great experience for our younger players. Semi-finals are for winning, we’re in a final and now we have a shot at winning it.”
Having forced Crossmaglen to an All-Ireland club SFC semi-final replay with Garrycastle in March this year, Cunningham has brought a second team to a national decider.
Asked if he might take something from that experience into September, he joked: “I don’t want to lose two. But look we’ve already told the players that semi-finals are for winning.
“We did cope as a group of players and management with the Leinster final win.
“We’d a very small celebration, just the one night. In 2001 and 2005 there was a lot of hype after the semi-final wins but that won’t be there now.
“We’ll have to concentrate hard now. We’re still a young team, we’re not a seasoned team. What I’ve learnt from the All-Ireland club final is you’ve got to take your chances on the day. You’ve got to be composed.”
Cunningham insisted his players don’t need to be told to be careful how they treat yesterday’s win.
“You don’t even have to ask them, such is their professionalism and that of every inter-county team and a lot of club teams now.
“Such is the product now, the way it’s gone and the training levels, we don’t have any issue with that, they know where the boundaries are.”
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