It was a final for men with huge hearts because there was no room to hide

It was a great All-Ireland hurling final. Maybe it might not have met the exacting requirements of purists and some players didn’t perform to their best, but in terms of effort and all of that it was absolutley massive. You couldn’t have gone out on that Croke Park pitch unless you were prepared to battle., writes D.J. Carey.

It was a great All-Ireland hurling final. Maybe it might not have met the exacting requirements of purists and some players didn’t perform to their best, but in terms of effort and all of that it was absolutley massive. You couldn’t have gone out on that Croke Park pitch unless you were prepared to battle., writes D.J. Carey.

There was no place for anyone to hide. There was total commitment from everyone for the full during of the game, including the additional time that was played. You had to be in the whole of your health to get through it.

Kilkenny looked in serious trouble for spells during the first half, but I was reasonably happy that we were only five points down at half-time. Easily things could have been worse. Galway had the measure of Kilkenny. Goalie David Herity had to bring off a good save as well, which was vital.

On top of that, Kilkenny got a few soft frees which earned them points during a strong finish approaching the break. They needed those scores because the game was in danger of slipping away, if not running away from them.

The Kilkenny resilience in that half was something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Although no one was on top of their man, and they took a bit of a battering, they were only five points down at the break. That was a good position to be in relative to the performance they had just turned in.

The likes of Jackie Tyrrell, Henry Shefflin and so on were immense during that period. They encourage, encouraged throughout that half even when Kilkenny weren’t on top in any sector.

Magnificent second half

Kilkenny then turned around and produced a magnificent second half. The out-scored Galway six points to one during one powerful spell to get in front. Galway then scored a goal against the run of play, which was a fair setback for a team that had already endured a pressure filled afternoon in terms of the thumping it took during the first half.

Galway got that goal, and for an instant the advantage was with them again, and it was a big advantage with time running out. Kilkenny again stormed back, which for me showed the true greatness of the team and individuals who make it up. Here they were for the second or third time in the match having to pick themselves up off the floor, and with the clock against them this time.

To handle the pressure of that situation in an All-Ireland final that had never run smoothly for them showed their greatness all over again. I don’t think they were at their best, hurling wise, yet they dragged out a draw and were within a minute or so of winning.

The players answered all questions that the team might be a failing force during that period. A fading team wouldn’t have been able to come back so late in the game did and then get into a winning position, all in the space of a few minutes. That was mighty stuff!

I was out of my seat during the closing stages because you just didn’t know the next turn the game was going to take. Henry (Shefflin) was magnificent at one end of the field, leading, driving and directing operations. Joe Canning was magnificent at the other, and the way he slotted over the equalising point, with virtually everyone in the grounds holding their breath it appeared, had the hallmark of greatness about it.

When down at half-time we had a full 35 minutes to organise a recovery. After the second Galway goal there was about 15 minutes left, and the pressure was mounting, mounting. Henry again orchestrated the recovery. He was the one man who brought the game to Galway after the rest.

I actually like Henry playing way out the field, even at his age. I like him coming on to the ball; being on the ball a lot. He has the vision and touch to make big things happen by combining with other players and spotting openings. Look at the goal chance he created for Colin Fennelly? He made that from virtually nothing.

Brian Hogan was another who charged forward to produced brilliant hurling when the team needed him most, and young Paul Murphy was tremendous throughout.

All over the place

Galway appeared to be all over the place and covering all areas of the field, and that more than their tactics that weren’t too out of the ordinary troubled the opposition. They seemed to be able to find or create space better than their opponents. They were on to breaking ball much sharper too.

But if you take Joe Canning’s score out of it - 1-9; you could say the same about Henry’s 0-12 - their other forwards didn’t produce that much. Canning will punish you if given a chance, but Kilkenny contained his threat reasonably well from open play. I would prefer to see him played on the edge of the square all the time, because he can all but guarantee you scores.

On any given day I would expect to lose 1-2 at least to Joe Canning, and I would be happy with that. You have to chalk something to his credit before you even go out on the field. I thought J.J. Delany did well on Canning. I think Joe slipped him once, and he put the ball wide then.

I have heard some observations about the referee, but I couldn’t say he had a bad game. He got the calls generally right. The call for the penalty was spot on. He got most of his calls pretty right.

The replay is going to be most interesting. In 2004 we had a long run in the championship and played Sunday after Sunday. Then there was a three week break to the All-Ireland final. We never receovered our form. It is the same for both teams now, but keeping things bubbling over won’t be easy with a three week wait.

Overall I think there will be better days than there was on Sunday for a lot of the Kilkenny players. There will have to be. We did magnificently to get a draw bearing in mind the way some individual played. Commitment wise no one could have done better, but performance wise many can step up a notch or two, particularly the forwards.

Fair play to the GAA for cutting ticket prices for the replay. The ‘gate’will still be substantial, but it was a nice gesture to fans to slash prices. A day out in Dublin can be expensive for families, and many have to give the All-Ireland final a miss because of the costs. This shows a bit of decency and the fans will appreciate the gesture.