Cork could crib about a close in free and a 65 which didn’t fall their way in a hectic finish. But their wastefulness in the first half when they squandered 12 point opportunities and failed to execute three goal chances ultimately cost them this All-Ireland quarter-final before an attendance of 34,640 at Semple Stadium yesterday.
The Galway defence deserves a lot credit though, particularly goalkeeper Éanna Murphy who pulled off three magnificent first-half saves to deny Alan Connolly, Robbie O’Flynn and Darragh Fitzgibbon. The latter pair ought to have found the net.
Worse still for Cork was that their long-range freetaking went awry in the first half with Conor Lehane suffering a nightmare when missing two 65s and a free. He was replaced at half-time by Patrick Horgan who converted two frees and a 65 and hit a last-gasp long-range free off an upright which led to the disputed 65.
The Galway full-back line of Jack Grealish – who scored a goal after 20 seconds when Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins allowed a speculative shot through his hands – Dáithí Burke and Darren Morrissey were outstanding, keeping the Cork full-forward line of Tim O’Mahony, Alan Connolly and Lehane scoreless from play. All three were replaced before the hour mark.
“I think it was the performance for me, truthfully. I just think we just wanted to perform and leave what we had on the line, and that’s what they did,” said Galway boss Henry Shefflin.
But it was a tale of what have might been for Cork manager Kieran Kingson.
“We didn’t help ourselves in the first half, 24 shots, seven scores, our efficiency was really poor. In that there were some missed point-scoring opportunities which we had been taking in the last few games easy enough. But for some reason today we weren’t.”
Galway’s second goal was the product of a moment’s hesitation by Cork corner-back Seán O’Donoghue who struggled to contain Conor Whelan. The latter got goal side but still had a huge amount to do – but he still managed to squeeze his shot pass Collins.
“But we were really in the game at half-time even though we were five points down and playing into the breeze in the second half. I thought our lads showed great character. They never threw the towel. I’m proud of them for reacting that way because they could have thrown the towel in after conceding soft scores and missing scores, but they didn’t. And I’m really proud of that and they at least deserved a draw out,” added Kingston.
“I’ve just come off the pitch and I haven’t even washed my hands yet. I went to the Galway dressing room and spoke to our backroom team, so I haven’t thought of anything.
“Our focus was Antrim, then it was Galway — there was no thought of anything else. I don’t want any talk of speculation about me to take from Galway’s win or from the character our group showed in the second half which I am really proud of,” said Kingston.
The second half did begin on a promising note for Cork when Shane Kingston goaled after 39 minutes but crucially they could never get into a real rhythm and never managed to level the contest.
Alan Cadogan did strike three sweet points after his introduction in the 58th minute but three of the Galway substitutes Brian Concannon — who replaced Cianan Fahy who had a proposed two-match ban quashed during the week — Jason Flynn and Johnny Coen hit points as well.
Shefflin suggested that the below par first half might have been down to both teams lacking confidence.
“I think the first half was a cagey affair. I think the second half it definitely opened up a bit. I’m just thrilled with the character the lads showed because it could have easily went against us there. In some big moments, big players stood up. For that, you have to be very proud of the way they performed.
“I’m sure Cork will be very disappointed with their first-half performance. They obviously were wasteful enough and probably could have had more scores. We were still a bit hungover from the Leinster final in that first half and to be fair Conor (Whelan) was exceptional there.”
Looking ahead to the All-Ireland semi-final clash against Limerick Shefflin said: “We know we are the underdogs, they have a fabulous team and we saw what they did in the Munster final. We were so disappointed after our Leinster final performance and to turn on the television and watch the Munster final, my god that’s what we want to try and achieve. But we have a chance, we are there and we will learn a massive amount from today. We’ll try and recover and get ready for two weeks.”
Shefflin paid tribute to David Burke who was making a record 63rd championship appearance for Galway.
“He’s been a fabulous leader for both his club first and foremost and for his county, and he’s got himself in great condition. He looks after himself really well and it’s just the way he goes about it.
“I think it’s his love for the game and the way he thinks about the game and the way he can just go out and perform. He got two vital scores and even at the end, he came over to me and said ‘look, I can do another minute or two, but I’m gone then,’ and I think it’s easy to say ‘I’ll hang in there, I’ll stay there,’ and that’s a testament to the character and the player he is, so it’s brilliant for him to be involved in that group inside,” said the Galway boss.
Scorers – Galway: C Whelan 1-2; C Cooney 0-5 (4f); C Mannion 0-3; J Grealish 1-0; J Cooney, D Burke 0-2 each; R Glennon, T Monaghan, J Flynn, B Concannon, J Coen 0-1 each. Cork: S Kingston 1-2 (0-1f); P Horgan 0-4 (2f, 1 ‘65); R O’Fynn, M Coleman (2f, 1 sideline), A Cadogan, D Fitzgibbon 0-3 each; D Cahalane, L Meade, C Lehane (1f) 0-1 each.
Cork: P Collins; N O’Leary, R Downey, S O’Donoghue; D Cahalane, C Joyce, M Coleman; D Fitzgibbon, L Meade; R O’Flynn, S Harnedy, S Kingston; T O’Mahony, A Connolly, C Lehane. Subs: P Horgan for Lehane (h-t), J O’Connor for Connolly (47), G Millerick for Downey (51), A Cadogan for O’Mahony (58), T O’Connell for Harnedy (68).
Galway: E Murphy; J Grealish, Dáithí Burke, D Morrissey; P Mannion, G McInerney F Burke; J Cooney, R Glennon; T Monaghan, C Cooney, David Burke; C Mannion, C Fahy, C Whelan. Subs: B Concannon for Fahy (30), J Flynn for McInerney (34), J Coen for Monaghan (45), E Niland for David Burke (69), G Lee for Monaghan (70 +4)
Referee: P O’Dywer (Carlow).