Galway are 140 minutes away from the Liam MacCarthy Cup
By JIM CARNEY
THREE down, two to go and hope is rising. Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park next Sunday — that’s the task facing Galway on a tough, hugely challenging trek up the Mount Everest that is this enthralling, fiercely contested Hurling Championship. It’s already claimed the scalps of Dublin, Clare, Limerick, Waterford, Wexford and Offaly, and left title-holders Kilkenny clinging to their crown through the “back door.”
Still in contention for the Liam MacCarthy Cup are Galway, Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary.
The semi-finals will be played over the next two Sundays: Galway vs Cork will be followed on August 19th by Kilkenny vs Tipperary, also at Croke Park.
Galway is a hurling county that no longer fears Cork but it took us a long time to get the better of them. And while we’ve beaten them in the Championship more often than we’ve lost to them in recent years, we cannot breathe easily.
For the first time since 2005, Galway senior hurlers have gone past the All-Ireland quarter-finals … gone past the month of July … gone past the Galway Races.
But it was Cork, winning their 30th All-Ireland S.H.C. title, who denied Galway the MacCarthy Cup in September 2005. And in five other years stretching back through the 20th century, the Rebel County also ambushed Galway in All-Ireland finals: 1928, 1929, 1953, 1986 and 1990.
Jimmy Barry Murphy, manager of the Cork team vs Galway at Croke Park next Sunday, played in the 1986 final against Galway. As far back as 1929, his granduncle Dinny Barry Murphy was the victorious Cork captain in the All-Ireland final defeat of Galway.
There’s not much doubt but Galway were good enough to have won the 1953, 1986 and 1990 finals but they lacked Cork’s Championship craft and their traditional great ability to win big games, the games that really mattered in the shaping of hurling history.
None of Galway’s four All-Ireland victories came at the expense of Cork, not even in semi-finals in 1923, 1980, ‘87 or ‘88.
Back in 1990, the priest who was manager of the Cork team playing Galway in the All-Ireland final did not deny that he said “15 Cork men would always beat 15 Galway men.” We couldn’t tackle him on it — Galway, with Joe Cooney sensational at centre half-forward, had Cork nearly beaten by half-time but the mighty men of Munster turned it around against all the odds and won the game in the second half.
Last year, at Páirc na Gael, Limerick there was a surprisingly easy Round 3 qualifier win for Galway, 2-23 to 1-14, under the management of John McIntyre, against an ageing Cork team. Then it all went wrong for Galway when Waterford beat them at Semple Stadium, Thurles by 2-23 to 2-13. Waterford shot 17 wides but it didn’t stop them winning by ten points shortly after they’d lost to Lar Corbett and Tipperary by seven goals!
In recent years too, Galway beat Cork in a National League semi-final and final and in the 2009 Championship (1-19 to 0-15), but not even a whopping 2-12 by their 19-year-old full-forward Joe Canning could prevent defeat by a 14-man Cork team (0-23 to 2-15) in the 2008 Championship.
In modern times, the breakthrough for Galway against Cork came in 1975 in an All-Ireland semi-final goals’ blitz in the first half, after which Galway captained by John Connolly led the likes of Brian Murphy, Martin Doherty, Con Roche, Gerald McCarthy, Jimmy Barry Murphy, Charlie McCarthy, Ray Cummins and Seánie O’Leary by 3-7 to 1-6. The three goals had come early, in a ten-minute burst, scored by Frank Burke, John Connolly and P. J. Qualter. Cork fought back in the second half but Galway won a thriller by two points, 4-15 to 2-19. They could not beat a magnificent Kilkenny team in the final, which finished 2-22 to 2-10.
It spoke volumes for what hurling meant to Cork that they bounced back to win the next three All-Ireland Championships, beating Wexford twice in finals and, in 1978, Kilkenny.
Cork had brought off the Four-in-a-Row in the early 1940s and were in line to do it again when they played Galway in the 1979 All-Ireland semi-finals. Another Galway shock for the Rebel County, this time by 2-14 to 1-13, but again it was Kilkenny that Galway had to play in the final and two “soft” goals cost them their chance of ending the Championship drought which had now stretched to 56 years. It would end a year later.
Since August 17th, 1975 Galway and Cork have met 12 times in the Senior Hurling Championship — with six wins each.
Many of those matches have been close; some were epic encounters, almost all of them were high-scoring, and in my very happy memories of great hurling contests down through the years all were hugely entertaining.
Galway vs Kilkenny last time out: J. Skehill; F. Moore, captain, K. Hynes, J. Coen; D. Collins (0-1), T. Regan, N. Donoghue; I. Tannian, A. Smith; N. Burke (0-2), D. Burke (1-2), D. Hayes (0-1); J. Canning (1-10, 0-7 frees), C. Cooney, C Donnellan (0-5). Subs., J. Glynn, for C. Cooney; J. Regan, for Tannian; T. Haran, for N. Burke; J. Cooney, for Donnellan.
Cork vs Waterford last time out: A. Nash; S. O’Neill, S. McDonnell, B. Murphy; T. Kenny, E. Cadogan, S. Ó hAilpín (0-1); D. Kearney, P. Cronin (0-2); N. McCarthy, C. McCarthy (0-3), J. Coughlan (1-1); P. O’Sullivan (0-2), L. O’Farrell (0-1), P. Horgan (0-7, four frees). Subs., D. Sweetnam, for Kearney; C. Naughton (0-2), for N. McCarthy; J. Gardiner, for Cadogan; S. Moylan, for Coughlan; L. McLoughlin, for C. McCarthy.
Next Sunday, at Croke Park: MHC semi-final, Clare vs Dublin, 1.30pm; SHC, Cork vs Galway, 3.30.