Photo: The 42 (Ryan Byrne/Inpho)
They did it. After 28 long years, the Liam McCarthy Cup is on its way back across the Shannon, back to Galway. Huge congrats to them on sealing the county’s fifth All-Ireland senior hurling title and their first since 1988.
It was, all told, a cracking final. Galway’s lightning start threatened to catch Waterford cold but once they’d got that goal, the Deise settled well and the two sides slugged it out toe-to-toe up to half-time and beyond.
Indeed, with twenty minutes or so to go Waterford briefly looked the more likely to prevail in what was now becoming a real cliffhanger final. But that’s where Galway’s greater experience and composure came into play and some super shooting – the quality of the point-taking all day was off the map – saw them soar four clear coming down the closing stretch.
Try as they might, Waterford’s were unable to get back on terms, Galway prevailing in the finish by a margin of three points, on a scoreline of 0-26 to 2-17. The losers’ contribution to this final was huge and their gutsy, big-hearted performance is one that’ll live long in the memory but tonight and, one suspects, for a few weeks to come the pain at such a narrow loss will be raw.
Of all the neutral supporters in the country, we’re the only ones who can with absolute sincerity say that we know exactly how the Waterford fans feel right now. We know what this pain is like and we know too how long it’s set to last. But, like them, we also know all about the pride supporters feel when their team gives everything in an All-Ireland final only to come up narrowly short.
So, Deise people, chins up: your team did you proud and will, in time, give you cause to look back on 2017 with an immense sense of pride. It’s a young team too, one with plenty of promise and while shouts of ‘We’ll be back!’ can often sounds hollow on nights like this, you’ve every right to be confident that your chance for glory will come round again soon enough.
For Galway, it is, of course, a day of unbridled joy. The way the late Tony Keady was remembered on the day – both in the video shown on the big screen at half-time and how captain David Burke included a reference to him in his acceptance speech – was pure class.
I used to shout for the Galway hurlers quite a bit back in the Eighties and I still have fond memories of that peerless Tribesman half-back line of Finnerty, Keady and McInerney. That was a cracking team and it’s great that Galway hurling fans now have a whole new set of All-Ireland-winning heroes to toast.
From our perspective, today inevitably raises the very pertinent question as to whether or not we can follow suit in two weeks time and prove that the West truly is awake this year. That’s one for the coming days, though, as tonight is Galway’s to celebrate their great hurling triumph.
Celebrate it in fine style is what I’m full sure they’ll do. Well done to them for sealing the deal at Croke Park today.