PHILIP REID at Croke Park
ALL-IRELAND MHC FINAL Galway 1-21 Dublin 1-12: THE CONVEYOR belt at this grade is as slick as ever for Galway, who – immune to reputations and displaying a hunger unfulfilled by all their recent dominance – proved a point of their own over a much-vaunted Dublin with a comprehensive win in the All-Ireland minor hurling championship final at Croke Park yesterday.
It was another win, their second in three years and sixth since 1999, which confirmed Galway’s status as the real powers of the minor grade. Unfortunately for Dublin, it was a day – the first of the championship – when they failed to deliver on their full potential and, if some of the decisions from referee Johnny Ryan in the first half might have left them bewildered, there could be no argument with the end result – Galway were the superior team.
As Galway manager Mattie Murphy remarked afterwards, his side showed “ferocious commitment”, and a willingness, as he put it, to “put their bodies on the line. They got in tackles, hooks, blocks. Anything.”
Indeed, it was a tour de force team performance driven by midfield dynamo Pádraig Brehony and embodied by the accuracy of corner forward and captain Shane Maloney, an exceptional talent who claimed his second minor medal in three years.
Maloney contributed a total of 1-8 – of which 1-3 came from play – as Galway out-muscled and out-hurled a Dublin side seeking a first All-Ireland title at this grade since 1965. If there is any solace for manager Shay Boland, it is that he can take 16 players from his squad of 30 with him into his second year in charge of the side.
And, perhaps, use this defeat – and the manner of it – to bring them back even stronger in a year’s time. They say you learn more from defeat than victory.
Yesterday, though, was Galway’s turn to reaffirm their position as the kings of minor hurling. After an opening spell in which Dublin started brightly – leading by 0-3 to 0-2 after 12 minutes, but with the same number of wides – the momentum swung to Galway and, once in control, they never relinquished it again.
Having scored six goals against Waterford in the semi-final, Dublin’s attack went into the final with a reputation which they couldn’t match. That could be attributed to a hugely impressive display from the Galway defence, in particular full-back Paul Killeen – eligible again next year – aided and abetted by Cormac Diviney and Pádraic Mannion who cleaned up everything.
Brehony was immense around the middle of the park, adding an ability to score long-range points – he got four from play – with a powerhouse performance and some telling passes inside to his Tynagh-Abbey-Duniry clubmate Maloney who proved too hard to handle for any of the Dublin defenders who attempted the task.
Indeed, from the time that Brehony fired over his first point of the game in the 13th minute to level the scores at 0-3 apiece, Galway never looked back.
That Brehony score marked a sequence of three successive points from Galway, only interrupted by a Paul Winters free, before they finished the half in some style with five points on the trot to send them in 0-10 to 0-4 ahead at the break.
“We never really got out of the blocks,” conceded Dublin manager Boland, who nevertheless felt the si-points interval deficit wasn’t “a fair reflection . . . but, at the same time, the scoreboard doesn’t lie.”
Galway were not for turning in the second half, keeping diligently to the task at hand with Maloney – if anything – having an even greater influence as the match progressed although he had to wait until the game was in its dying embers before he finally managed to cap it off with a goal that put them 1-21 to 0-12 ahead.
The only other score that came afterwards was the Dublin goal, which came from Ciarán Kilkenny – who had stubbornly sought to turn the tide – as he fired home a late injury-time free. It brought his own haul to 1-3 for the match but even that goal was too little, too late.
GALWAY : S Mannion; C Diviney, P Killeen, P Mannion; A Tuohy (0-1), S Sweeney, J Hanbury; P Brehony (0-4), D Higgins (0-1); J Flynn (0-3), J Glynn, B Lane; G O’Donoghue (0-1), J Carr (0-1), S Maloney (1-9, six frees). Subs : K Cullinane for Higgins (54 mins), M Mullins for Hanbury (54 mins), D Dolan (0-1) for O’Donoghue (55 mins), P Flaherty for Carr (58 mins).
DUBLIN : C Ryan; E Lowndes, C O’Callaghan, S McClelland; C Crummy, J Desmond, M Maffrey (0-1); G Whelan, C Cronin (0-2); C Kilkenny ((1-3), C McHugh, E Ó Conghaile (0-1); C Costello (0-1), A Clabby (0-2), P Winters (0-2, free, 65). Subs : D Gormley for Desmond (half-time), O O’Rorke for McHugh (44 mins), C Boland for Winters (52 mins).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).