Deadly Galway figure it out in style
Canning inspires Tribesmen to another wind-assisted rout in O'Connor Park
NOT a month ago, David Treacy stood over a free in Croke Park which, had it gone the way of the other 10 he took that day, would have spat Galway out into the qualifiers and - if recent history is any sort of reliable predictive tool - possibly one of those spirals of negativity that tends to pole-axe their season.
They have as adhesive claims on All-Ireland contender status as anyone out there.
Say, for instance, Dublin won the toss in their replay - the one Cathal Mannion's blitz ruined as a contest inside 10 minutes - and Galway were chasing, rather than nonchalantly preserving a lead, would we be as sure of their credentials now?
Or against Laois, who learned from Dublin's folly not to leave a canyon of space between their full and half lines, only to concede so much ball and room out the pitch, as to receive a pummelling from long range.
We probably didn't learn anything about Galway on Saturday evening we didn't know already, except that they look much better equipped to figure it out for themselves on the pitch than has been the case in the past.
"Our guys are good at it and they're very skilful," praised Anthony Cunningham after Laois had been fillted on Saturday night inside a half hour.
"Padraig Mannion can score, Johnny Coen can score, John Hansbury can score," he added of his full-back line that, given the room afforded by Laois' deep-lying defence, scored 1-3 collectively by the break.
"You've three defenders and Iarla Tannian who is very smart in his distribution. All in all, we showed that we can play that game fairly easily."
For 17 minutes, Laois' defence looked the business.
Joe Canning was coming away from goal looking for ball. Their inside men couldn't get a shot away.
And then - boom. A long deliver from Johnny Coen skipped past Laois goalkeeper, Eoin Reilly, caught out by the glare of the Midland sun.
"They got a goal, a lucky bounce," reflected Zane Keenan.
"I wouldn't say our heads dropped, they just got a run on us."
A run so emphatic as to leave 13 points (1-12 to 0-2) between the teams at half-time and negate any chance of a Laois comeback.
"We just couldn't pull it back," Keenan admitted.
"We couldn't score. We were all over the place and they were running us ragged. We had no answer to them in the last 15 or 20 minutes."
We came a little closer to solving the Joe Canning conundrum on Saturday evening too.
Full-forward or deep-lying?
He moved, shimmied and drifted to devastating effect (1-15, 9f, 2 '65), belting a goal from an old-school full-forward posting but wreaking most havoc from mid-distance.
"He's a class player," shrugged Cunningham,
"If he's inside he needs to deliver, he can and he has the talent and he's a good head.
"We've different guys and different tactics."
"To be honest with you, the talent is there and it's a need to get the bit between the teeth," he continued on a more general theme of his players.
"They need that. It's not all about hurling in this world; it's really who wants it the most and that has been proven time and time again."
Galway are back in a Leinster final, though just a little surer than before than they'll deliver an accurate representation of their immense collective talents.
Laois, meanwhile, are into the qualifiers, sober again from the inebriation of breathing rarified air.
"You've to keep on working," stressed their manager, 'Cheddar' Plunkett.
"I'm absolutely convinced of the character that is in this team and I'm looking forward to bouncing back again the next day."