KILKENNY’S ALL-IRELAND final days have become characterized by raising green flags yet yesterday they unusually drew a blank in their efforts to find the net.
They had done likewise in 1999 and 2004 in those finals against Cork, and that trend was repeated against Galway in the 2012 decider yesterday in Croke Park. They had their opportunities through Colin Fennelly’s second-half drive and Henry Shefflin’s late penalty.
But on the former occasion James Skehill pulled off an outstanding save and on the latter occasion Shefflin was content to tap the ball over the bar. The awarding of that penalty arrived after Eoin Larkin was pulled down by Skehill and the Galway goalkeeper revealed that was a tactical decision.
“So many things go through your head in a split second of a game and I made a decision that no goal was better than anything else. So I made a dive on the ball and gave away the free and at least give us a chance of saving it. He (Eoin Larkin) was one-on-one with me before it. I made a decision to take him down and hope for the best and luckily for us he put the ball over the bar.
“For that save then, he (Colin Fennelly) shaped to my right so I just dived across the goal and tried to spread myself across as much ground as possible. Coaches have always told me through the couple of years to make myself as big as humanly possible when it’s one-on-one.
“Luckily, it hit me in the wrist or somewhere – I don’t really know where it hit me. Some days those balls are stuck by you but thankfully I came out on the positive side today.”
Skehill believes Galway will need the period of three weeks in order to recuperate and properly prepare for the replay.
“It’s mentally draining even for me as a goalkeeper. You feel fatigued after the game and I can’t imagine how the lads out the field must be like. Three weeks is the minimum you want to prepare. Seven days or 14 days that’s very difficult because you’re trying to recuperate your bodies as amateur players.
“We’ve three weeks of training to look forward to and hopefully three weeks of improvement. It leaves us with a lot to work to do, for sure. We went ten or fifteen minutes without a score so but we managed to score goals and not leak any, so that’s a positive. We just have to try and knuckle down and analyse where we went wrong and fix that.”
Skehill praised the contribution of the Galway supporters who were in full voice throughout.
“There’s only so many times you see Galway people in Croke Park shouting you on and they did a great job of supporting the team today. I hope that we restored a bit of pride in the jersey after the last couple of years and I hope that they come out in their numbers the next day.
“We know the decibel level, we know the size of the crowd, we know the noise of Hill 16 now. At least we have that now. Even playing in my first All-Ireland, that’s a bonus for myself.”