IT may come as a surprise to hear that Galway have come out on top in the last four championship clashes between Cork and Galway, with Cork’s last championship victory being that famous night in July 2008 when a teenage Joe Canning announced himself to the hurling world.
The not long retired Portumna wizard scored a brilliant 2-12 on that scorching summer night, yet still ended up on the losing side against 14-man Cork in a classic. Donal Óg Cusack had been sent off in the first half, having been brandished two yellow cards by referee Barry Kelly, and Cork had trailed at halftime, yet Gerald McCarthy’s side somehow picked their way through the crowded Galway defence, with Joe Deane in inspired form, as Cork won by 2-15 to 0-23.
Galway would get their revenge a year later, almost to the day, winning by seven, and they would win even more comfortably in 2011, by a 12-point margin at the Gaelic Grounds, in what was Denis Walsh’s last game in charge of Cork.
JBM took over after that defeat and Cork would reach the last four in his first season back in charge in 2012, putting up a respectable showing in going down by 0-22 to 0-17 against a Galway side that was much further on in their development at that stage. Cork would come within a whisker of All-Ireland glory a year later but would slip again after the 2014 Munster Championship triumph, with Barry-Murphy’s reign ending with another 12-point defeat to the Tribesmen in 2015, this time in Thurles.
This four-in-a-row run of wins from Galway is unprecedented in the Cork-Galway rivalry, which is understandable given they have only beaten Cork on eight occasions in championship history. In contrast, Cork have won 25, and they had actually won the first 19 meetings until Galway shocked Cork in the 1975 All-Ireland semi-final to record their first ever victory on a scoreline of 4-15 to 2-19.
That win actually sparked the greatest era of the rivalry, as they would meet in five All-Ireland semi-finals between ’75 and ’85, followed by the final in ’86, with the winning sequence in those games going Galway – Cork – Galway – Cork – Galway – Cork.
They wouldn’t meet again until 2002, which would be another comfortable qualifier win for Galway in Thurles that would be the genesis for ‘the strike’, which in turn would kickstart Cork’s last golden period, which culminated in their last All-Ireland victory, a 1-21 to 1-16 win over, guess who, Galway in 2005.
That brings us right back to where we started, which completes this whistle-stop tour of the modern Cork v Galway rivalry.
Bar the 1980s it has invariably been an infrequent one, and it has been a long time since they produced what could be considered a classic. That 2008 meeting in Semple Stadium certainly was one, with the previous one to that probably being the 1990 final.
Whether the two teams can produce another in their All-Ireland quarter-final remains to be seen. Cork would appear to be in a good place right now, having overcome the slump they experienced at the beginning of the championship, and they have now recorded three wins on the trot against Waterford, Tipperary and Antrim.
We must be careful not to underestimate Galway based on their Leinster final showing too. They were extremely disappointed with their display and they weren’t the first team, and certainly won’t be the last, to have the life squeezed out of them by a Brian Cody-coached Kilkenny.
Shefflin’s side would appear on paper to be a match for Cork in the physical stakes, and they still have plenty of their 2017 All-Ireland winners knocking around, while with the likes of Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney and Cathal Mannion, they certainly have sufficient attacking threat to do damage.
At the other end, they have arguably the finest full-back in the game in Daithí Burke, so Cork’s new direct approach would certainly be adequately road-tested against Galway, in what has the makings of the first classic between these counties in years.