THE complexion of the race for the Liam McCarthy Cup changed dramatically last Saturday night with the elimination of Galway.
After their successful raid on Nowlan Park a week earlier and inflicting Kilkenny’s first home championship defeat in over 70 years it was assumed by most pundits they were up and running in the championship chase and that when the hard questions came they’d be there or thereabouts in the Autumn.
They still had to breach another difficult venue in Parnell Park and take out Dublin but given the momentum gained in the win over Kilkenny and the psychological plus that accompanied that victory, the consensus was that they’d be too strong for them.
But history has taught us that across the sporting landscape you assume nothing and it’s history now that one of the top contenders for the All-Ireland are done and dusted for the year.
Firstly, it must be acknowledged this was a wonderful victory for Dublin, a county sick and tired of gaining the moral high ground but most times ending up empty-handed. Every dog in the street knew in the capital there are hurlers as good as anywhere else but for various reasons, players not making themselves available, no consistency from game to game and other factors, they remained on the outside looking in.
Taking a scalp as considerable as Galway’s will surely give them the confidence to be a much more difficult proposition going forward. This was a huge victory for them against one of the country’s top teams, one that lost last year’s All-Ireland final by just a point and one that held the trophy aloft a year earlier.
The Leinster championship has, by far, exceeded its Munster counterpart this season in terms of quality, late, late drama and games that provided great hurling.
Galway will surely reflect on their failure to hammer home their advantage against Carlow on the opening day when they could only win by six points.
A week later Kilkenny hammered Carlow and Wexford did likewise.
So, when it all came down to points difference, Galway came up short because of what transpired against Carlow in Pearse Stadium a few weeks earlier.
As former Tipperary star Brendan Cummins said the lesson to be learned was that you have to be merciless in every game and if you don’t it will come back to haunt you. It has now where Galway are concerned.
Dublin, will now, in all probability be in an All-Ireland quarter-final, defeating Laois or Westmeath en-route and that will give them a nice bit of momentum going into that.
Wasn’t it ironic over the weekend that a Galway man, Mattie Kenny, engineered the Dublin victory over his own county and a day later a Galway man plotted Roscommon’s victory over his own county as well. There is no doubt that the Kilkenny, Wexford game in Wexford Park on Saturday night was the game of the season thus far.
It certainly was better than anything that Munster produced in terms of competitiveness.
It was a good, old-fashioned game of hurling, plenty of belts delivered and some great scores too as well as strong individual returns.
And then there was the uncertainty at the end of who had made it through and who had not.
And rarely in the history of the game has a draw been greeted with such enthusiasm by both players and supporters alike.
There were great scenes of Brian Cody and Davy Fitz together at the final whistle sharing their joy at the outcome.
They were like long lost brothers meeting for the first time in years.
I wonder will things be so cordial in Croke Park next Sunday week.
From a TV perspective it was fabulous to watch it all unfold, things changing minute by minute from both the Leinster venues.
The stakes could not have been higher for the four counties involved and it certainly made for compulsive viewing.
The championship certainly ignited in Wexford Park on a night when the Summer really came alive.