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Tuesday 18 September 2018

Greatness eludes Galway as Donoghue's men fade at worst time

LOSS: Mícheál Donoghue Pic: Sportsfile
LOSS: Mícheál Donoghue Pic: Sportsfile

So the debate is settled once and for all. After a summer of breathless, frantic research, nine points is, in fact, the most dangerous lead in hurling!

That was the advantage Galway had against Clare after 21 minutes of their drawn All-Ireland semi-final.

It was the lead Cork had over Tipperary in their Munster clash that seems now like an age ago.

And it was the size of Limerick's lead yesterday in Croke Park after 53 minutes.

Indeed, they led by eight points in the 70th minute, just as the same number of minutes of added time were being revealed.

And yet as Joe Canning, who had long since decided the Hurler of the Year Award for himself by single-handedly dragging Galway back into yesterday's match, stood over that final free, we might have been looking forward to the fourth All-Ireland SHC final replay of this decade.

"I couldn't be prouder of them," declared Mícheál Donoghue, Galway's understated manager who didn't veer from his customary post-match demeanour yesterday.

Breakthrough

"Anything we've asked of these lads since we came in, they've been top notch.

"They've been one of the top teams, they've been knocking on the door for so long.

"Obviously," he went on, "last year we made the breakthrough, which was massive and there was a lot of learnings we'll take from the year as well in terms of … particularly early on and how we prepared for the year but they're a great bunch to work with.

"As I said, there's a huge understanding of the responsibility that goes with being involved in Galway and some massive leaders in there and all we can do any day is ask them to go out and give it 100 per cent and they did and I'm really proud of them."

That Galway were in it at all as Canning prepared to strike the free was a small miracle in itself.

Very clearly, Gearóid McInerney was well shy of match fitness and was duly torched by Kyle Hayes.

John Hanbury didn't seem in the whole of his health either and the Galway forwards that had struggled for scoring form all year did so again yesterday.

"We just seemed to be struggling to get into it," Donoghue acknowledged.

"Sometimes games go like that.

"As I said, it wasn't panic at half-time, there was just (a determination to) try and improve some of the areas we wanted to focus on and we still probably (struggled) until the last 10 minutes.

"We didn't get into a bit of a flow and then we got the sucker punches of goals but, as I said, credit to Limerick, they worked really hard from the off and got massive scores.

"Even when we came back, I know it was a mistake on our behalf but when the opportunity presented itself they took it and pushed on so credit to them."

Whether Galway's performance was a symptom of some weariness from recent exertions, Donoghue wasn't quite sure.

Excuse

He wasn't inclined to completely rule it out, mind.

Yesterday was Galway's ninth game of an epic hurling summer in which they went to extra-time once and replays twice.

True, only the great teams do back-to-back and though their character almost raised them on to that pedestal, yesterday was a cruel time for their best hurling to desert them.

"Obviously we were where we wanted to be today," Donoghue shrugged.

"I still thought the two weeks, we had enough time and the lads bounced back really well.

"I'm not going to sit here and use any excuse.

"We didn't hurl the way we want to hurl for periods in games.

"The lads worked really hard at the end of the game. My thoughts on the players isn't going to change.

"What we achieved together and where we want to go, this huge unity, huge trust, huge collective in that group.

"And they've shown massive resilience down through the years when they've had setbacks. And I'm sure they're going to bounce back again," concluded the Clarinbridge clubman.

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