It is 40 years this weekend since Galway returned to hurling’s high altar, their 1975 All-Ireland final appearance bringing to an end the county’s 17-year wait for a September sojourn to Jones Road.
Having edged out Tipperary in the league decider earlier in the year, confidence was brimming out west ahead of the clash with Kilkenny.
In the end, Eddie Keher and company sent the Tribesmen back across the Shannon on their shields. Similar tales of September woe would follow the maroon and white through the 80s, 90s and into the noughties; Galway boasting, by some distance, the worst All-Ireland final record of any hurling county over the past 40 years.
In their 13 final showings since ‘75, they left empty-handed on 10 occasions – Kilkenny, by comparison, unsuccessful in seven out of 23 final dates, Cork were down in six out of 15, while Tipperary lost five from nine.
Indeed, it reached the stage where Galway top-brass believed divine intervention was required; Nellie Murphy, wife of long-serving County Board secretary Phelim, stitching miraculous medals into the players’ togs ahead of the 1987 decider against Kilkenny.
Wounds from each of the 10 final losses have been reopened this week ahead of the county’s latest bid for Liam MacCarthy. Bones of contention still remain.
1975: Kilkenny 2-22 Galway 2-10
Playing with the aid of the elements in the first-half, Frank Burke’s 18th minute goal moved Galway 1-3 to 0-3 ahead.
Kilkenny, however, would hit the next six points to carve out a 0-9 to 1-3 interval advantage. 1-3 from the reigning champions early in the second-half put the game to bed.
1979 Kilkenny 2-12 Galway 1-8
Four minutes from time, Galway goalkeeper Seamus Shinnors let fall into the goal Mick Brennan’s long-range effort.
It was the second mistake made by the ‘keeper on a greasy afternoon at Croke Park, having allowed Liam ‘Chunky’ O’Brien’s first-half ’65 hop off his chest and into the net for Kilkenny’s opening major.
“I went up for the ball and…next thing...the two legs went out from under me,” Shinnors is quoted in Sylvie Linnane’s book True Grit.
Kilkenny’s unanswered 1-6 in the final quarter, John Connolly’s missed penalty and 11 first-half wides were also cited in the post-mortem.
1981: Offaly 2-12 Galway 0-15
Still Galway folk maintain Johnny Flaherty threw the ball into the net to complete a remarkable Offaly comeback. Ahead by 0-13 to 1-4 at the break, Steve Mahon burst through for an early second-half point to move the defending champions seven in front. They’d score but once more, hitting 14 second-half wides.
Galway goalkeeper Michael Conneely said of that infamous goal: “I got out to Johnny and I thought I had him pinned down. I waited for the referee’s whistle, but it never came. The next thing I heard the roar of the crowd and I looked back to see the ball in the net. To this day, I don’t know how he got the ball in the net.”
1985: Offaly 2-11 Galway 1-12
Trailing 1-6 to 0-7 at the break, having hit 13 first-half wides, Offaly secured a second green flag in the opening minutes of the second period. Goalkeeper Peter Murphy’s attempt to bat away a probing delivery hopped off the knee of Sylvie Linnane and into the Galway net.
1986: Cork 4-13 Galway 2-15
The decision to again opt for the two-man full-forward line that had stunned Kilkenny in the semi-final backfired. Cork corner-back Johnny Crowley, unmarked for the entire contest, swept in front of the full-back line and wound up winning the man of the match award.
“[Cork manager] Johnny Clifford was as smart as an old fox. He’d seen what Farrell had done to Pat Henderson. There’d be no fooling Clifford,” recalled Sylvie Linnane in his book.
1990: Cork 5-15 Galway 2-21
Cork ‘keeper Ger Cunningham produced a point-blank save to deny Martin Naughton midway through the second-half. Galway were in front at the time, but no ’65 was given. Tomás Mulcahy goaled in the ensuing passages to swing the pendulum in Cork’s favour. Having led Cork by seven points after 45 minutes, Galway were hit for 4-3 in the next 18 minutes.
1993 Kilkenny 2-17 Galway 1-15
Padraig Kelly, similar to Joe Cooney three years earlier, delivered an outstanding performance in the maroon shirt. Collectively, however, Galway failed to carry through their semi-final form which had seen them stave off Tipperary. Pat Delaney’s second-half goal proved decisive.
2001: Tipperary 2-18 Galway 2-15
Noel Lane’s men were chasing the game from the off and never held the lead over the 70-minutes. Fergal Healy’s 60th minute goal reduced the deficit to the minimum, 2-13 to 2-12, but no closer would they come. Cathal Moore was dispossessed in the subsequent action with Mark O’Leary putting Nicky English’s side back in the driving seat.
2005: Cork 1-21 Galway 1-16
Another final in which the Tribesmen played second fiddle from early on. Damien Hayes’ 49th minute goal cut the gap to the minimum, 1-14 to 1-13. John Gardiner responded with a massive point to move Cork off into the distance.
2012: Kilkenny 3-22 Galway 3-11 (Kilkenny 0-19 Galway 2-13)
Seven points ahead 32 minutes into the drawn game, Anthony Cunningham’s charges could not tighten the noose sufficiently.
Kilkenny’s 1-6 response to two David Burke goals on 16 and 18 minutes in the replay hammered home the reality Galway had missed their chance the first day. A disallowed Cyril Donnellan goal and the same player’s sending-off the final two nails in the coffin.
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