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Galway's Joe Canning. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Galway's Joe Canning. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Power, hunger and a scoring spread offered the winning template for Galway

IT might not have felt like it yesterday, as Waterford embraced the big stage at Croke Park at Cork’s expense, but the result only enhanced the value of the Munster title.

There were four major trophies on offer this season and with Galway sweeping to a league, Leinster and All-Ireland treble, Cork were the only other winners. That doesn’t mean they’re any closer than the Déise to the Holy Grail – the coming season’s promise to be cutthroat, now that Kilkenny aren’t as dominant – but it offers a platform for 2018.

Should he stay on, Kieran Kingston and his management will know they’ve a bit of ground to make up on the new kingpins in terms of physicality, aerial ability, and bench depth. Yet that was the same after last September when Tipp had a similarly potent combination of overall power and attacking punch.

The most obvious difference between Tipp and Galway was in terms of goal-threat, with Mícheál Donoghue’s outfit content to split the posts rather than work goals. They won the All-Ireland scoring just two goals in five matches, but their scoring spread made them hard to beat.

Waterford's Kieran Bennett and David Burke of Galway. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Waterford's Kieran Bennett and David Burke of Galway. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

David Burke was their top marksmen leaving aside Joe Canning’s placed balls yesterday, with 0-4, but apart from target-man and tyro Conor Whelan, they’d four starting forwards who hit two or more from play. And the same from subs Niall Burke and Jason Flynn.

Cork have a set of forwards up there in terms of raw talent as the Tribe’s, but it’s delivering on Jones Road that earns Celtic Crosses. Experience helps – in defence especially – and many of this Galway panel have been chasing Liam MacCarthy since 2012’s replay defeat to Kilkenny.

The likes of John Hanbury, burned by Seamus Callanan in 2015, Daithí Burke, recast at full-back, and Johnny Coen, who moved from corner-back to midfield, have matured through a series of setbacks. Damien Cahalane, Christopher Joyce, Seamus Harnedy and others can become better hurlers for their disappointment last month.

We all know Cork’s young guns will become hardier, but even though the minors reached the All-Ireland final, it’s getting a bit more from the veterans that could be critical.

The Tribesmen looked every inch the champions here.

They were swashbuckling in the first quarter, with 10 points on the board, landing enough classy efforts to fill up the highlight reel. Kevin Moran’s goal gave the Déise a vital lift in that period and the fortuitous second effectively kept them in it all the way to the finale.

Waterford deserve huge kudos for sticking to their system and staying in the mix, despite their lack of marquee forwards. The nous and drive of Moran, Brick Walsh and Pauric Mahony, from play as he fluffed a couple of frees, kept the scoreboard ticking.

Moran, however, missed a glorious opportunity to put them two points in front after 47 minutes and once Galway slipped back ahead they weren’t going to be caught. Jamie Barron went from shining either side of half-time to being peripheral enough in the last 10 minutes to justify being replaced.

Referee Fergal Horgan left a lot go, which helped the flow, and also Gearóid McInerney to horse Austin Gleeson out of it. Canning didn’t raze all before him, but he arched over two from play and a majestic sideline. Gleeson made one eye-catching fetch under a dropping ball but he had three wides and no score.

Austin Gleeson of Waterford in action against Gearóid McInerney. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Austin Gleeson of Waterford in action against Gearóid McInerney. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

As good as Shane Fives, Tadhg de Burca and Noel Connors – who neutered Whelan – were, for Waterford to upset the odds they needed Gleeson to rip it up. Some will say it was poetic justice, after the helmet controversy in the semi-final, but the Déise need him motoring at full tilt.

It’ll be interesting to see if Derek McGrath stays at the helm to take their number six and the team on. McGrath and Dan Shanahan make an entertaining double act and even if their style isn’t to the purists’ taste they’ve added to a fascinating season.

Tommy Ryan has been a find and fired a savage point. And surely Patrick Curran and Colin Dunford have the ability to nail down starting berths?

Inevitably, when they hoover up their share of All-Stars – hopefully with Mark Coleman and Patrick Horgan alongside them – there will be talk of a Galway dynasty. They have a core of hurlers at their peak with Canning, who showed his class with Tony Keady’s family during the celebrations, capable of orchestrating them for a few seasons yet.

Tipp are the prime example of a county who discovered the crown of champions can weigh heavily, so Galway should just soak it all in. They deserve to.