DID incivility almost threaten, wondered Sam Matthews?
There was certainly a dispute between the two managers over a contentious injury-time free to Davy Glennon – dispatched, effortlessly, by Joe Canning to tie the game. But by the time for post-match press conferences, things had settled down considerably.
Brian Cody laughed away suggestions that there was anything untoward involved.
“Every person, I think there were about 81,000 here today, was excited and roaring and fierce passionate at that stage,” he said.
“Surely to God the two managers of each team are entitled to be fairly excited as well? It happens every weekend in club matches. No big deal, shook hands, well done Anthony – best of luck and see you in three weeks’ time.”
Anthony Cunningham himself offered a similar perspective.
“Anyone on any team, if there’s a close call or free coming up to injury time or final whistle time, you are going to challenge it with the ref,” he said.
“That happens. If it’s a club challenge match you’re playing, or any game, you are going to challenge it. If it was me, I would be challenging from the other side.”
In all, he said, it was a fair result following a hard-fought and honest encounter.
“That game, there was no foul stroke, it was brilliant sportsmanship by both sides,” said Cunnigham.
“That’s always been the case with Kilkenny. They are tough, they are hard – but they are honest. There was no blaggarding and it was a brilliant spectacle from that point of view. There were great sportsmen on both sides.”
Kilkenny’s burst of point scoring came in a 15-minute purple patch at the beginning of the second half. It was just the response required, having been largely outplayed by Galway’s watertight defence during the opening 20 minutes of the game.
“When you are playing Kilkenny or anyone in an All-Ireland final, there are going to be times when they will have periods of dominance, and we will have periods of dominance,” said the Galway bainisteoir.
“Our period of dominance was early on in the first half. And first 20 minutes of the second half they kicked on, and went ahead. But we came back and rallied with a great goal.”
That goal preceded one of the more memorable talking points of the match. James Skehill was adjudged to have unfairly taken out James Stephens man Eoin Larkin, setting up a penalty for Henry Shefflin.
Shefflin opted to point, putting his team in front by one. The right move under the circumstances – even the opposition agree.
“At the time it was a drawn match, and it put them a point ahead,” says Cunningham.
“If they went for it and missed it, people would be saying ‘why didn’t you take the point?’ In that type of a scenario, you’re really better to take your point. We probably would have done the same thing.”
As it stands, Kilkenny have yet to avenge their Leinster final defeat to the Tribesmen, but they will have learned much from Sunday’s encounter. That earlier defeat was no fluke; this Galway team is capable of winning on the big stage, and most importantly, they have answered some questions about consistency.
The Galway boss, too, has much to ponder from last weekend’s events.
“I think tactically [Kilkenny] were probably a bit off the pace in the Leinster final,” he said.
“They upped their intensity in the game today. Kilkenny play their system – they have deadly forwards, and their defenders are huge, the tackling rate is very high. I wasn’t surprised at the way Kilkenny came out today.”
Cunnigham said he was delighted to still be in with a shot at the championship, and that it was a credit to the Galway players for not letting the game slip from them when Kilkenny went ahead in the closing stages. He looked forward to having another go at the Cats in three weeks’ time.
“We know it is going to take a huge effort again to beat Kilkenny,” he said.
“They are a fantastic team, they are fantastic hurlers. We will have to be at the top of our game. It will still be very close. We will kick on from this.”