1. That last-gasp Galway free
Should it have been awarded? Brian Cody’s incensed reaction clearly indicated what he felt about it while Anthony Cunningham was unequivocal that the right call was made. What is certain is that Joe Canning displayed enormous character to stand up to the placed ball and convert the chance. Similar to his previous effort the free was around the 45 yard line but this angle was far less favorable and the previous miss must have played on his mind.
It would have been rough justice on Canning if that earlier wide had been the defining moment of the game. Yet instead of being haunted by that spurned opportunity, Canning rose to the challenge, displayed the requisite composure and intelligently arrowed the ball at a low trajectory to remove the risk of not pointing.
Another Galway forward deserved credit as well. Davy Glennon only entered the match in the 68th minute and is still U21 this year. But he belied his late introduction and his tender years to gather possession, kept his nerve by trying to run up the line and drawing the tackle from Jackie Tyrrell that lead to the free being awarded. Rather than lashing the ball forward in a panicked fashion, the Mullagh club man displayed the intelligence that enabled Galway to rescue the game.
Galway’s Joe Canning scores the point to draw the match in the last minute. Pic: INPHO/Billy Stickland
2. Henry v Joe
Ever since they first collided in the 2009 All-Ireland club semi-final, it has been impossible for hurling followers to resists drawing parallels between Henry Shefflin, the greatest modern day attacker, and Joe Canning, the player best placed to challenge him for that title. Their meetings on the pitch have been rare since then but yesterday they finally came face to face in an All-Ireland senior showpiece.
The duel lived up to its billing and even the conclusion tumbled off a script. Shefflin edging Kilkenny ahead with a point from a penalty and Canning replied, at the second attempt, with the equalizing free. It concluded in a tie – Joe Canning 1-9 Henry Shefflin 0-12.
But it was the manner in which both showed incredible leadership that stood out. Canning’s wonderful early goal set the tone yet Shefflin, who only scored one point in the first 33 minutes of the game, rose to the challenge and raised 11 white flags thereafter. It was marvellous to watch and the beauty is there is another installment to come.
3. Kilkenny’s old hands bale them out of trouble
Kilkenny endured difficulties in getting to the tempo of the game early on and as the first-half progressed they had concerns around the pitch. They trailed by seven points approaching the interval but just as Brian Cody saw his team’s challenge listing, the experienced figures in his team stood tall. None more so than Shefflin when he snapped over three points before the break and lead the charge throughout the second-half.
Brian Hogan was also immense further back the pitch with the 31 year-old getting to grips with Niall Burke’s threat, dominating the skies and anchoring the Kilkenny challenge in a composed fashion. Jackie Tyrrell grew in prominence as the game progressed while amongst the younger guns it was Paul Murphy who shone brightest. Yet at opposite ends of the pitch it was Shefflin and Hogan who lead the way, and Kilkenny will need greater assistance if they are to triumph in the replay.
4. Galway get vital All-Ireland senior final experience
We were reminded of a quote from Tomás Ó Sé when watching Galway during yesterday’s All-Ireland decider. Speaking about the unique challenge that the current Donegal team pose, Ó Sé outlined how you cannot train yourself for a match against Jim McGuinness’s side, it is something that you have to experience. That theory could be applicable to the rigors and occasion of an All-Ireland senior hurling final as well.
Galway tried manfully to get themselves prepared correctly for yesterday’s game but ultimately nothing could set them for the type of challenge that it poses. Only David Collins, Tony Óg Regan and Damien Hayes from the starting fifteen – and Niall Healy who was an unused substitute – featured in the county’s decider in 2005.
Now they have 16 other players who have experienced the occasion and while some like Iarla Tannian and Johnny Coen thrived yesterday, others struggled to get to the pitch of the game. They will benefit enormously from the exposure and should be in better shape in three weeks time. Selector Tom Helebert described that as ‘a huge bonus’ after the game and he was accurate in his summation.
5. New territory with the replay
Surreal. That’s the only way to describe the post-match atmosphere yesterday when Barry Kelly’s whistle sounded. People were unsure how to react to the anti-climax and who could blame them given that it is 53 years since a draw last occurred in this clash?
Brian Cody looked flummoxed in the post-match media briefing and Anthony Cunningham, even allowing for the similar experience he had with Garrycastle earlier this year, looked confused as well. Instead of post-match banquets featuring celebrations or commiserations, both squads were instead making plans to journey back on the M6 and M9 last night.
It’s an intriguing challenge now for the two management teams to get their players focus switched back to a replay and set up training schedules for the next few weeks. The two teams seasons have been prolonged rather than concluded. Save for Joe Canning, Kevin Hynes, Kieran Joyce, Richie Hogan and Matthew Ruth – the quintet who played yesterday and in the 2004 minor final replay between the counties – this is unchartered territory.