THE week leading up to last Saturday’s All-Ireland hurling was an extremely hard week for Galway coach Pat O’Connor.
“To be against Clare and, more particularly with Patrick’s involvement, made it twice as hard,” said the Tubber man as he reflected on Saturday’s thrilling contest.
“It got more difficult as the week went on. To walk onto the pitch in Thurles with Galway and have Clare on the other side, it was very difficult but I had given a commitment in Galway and we had 35 very committed players who gave a massive effort. We got on great as a management team.”
He said it was an enjoyable game but not on the sideline. “Every time you looked there was a score. It just went from end to end. It was a real shootout. Both had great forwards and each team had one outstanding forward. Neither back line got to deal with the opposition’s star player fully,” said O’Connor, who played at every level for, Clare during the ’70s and ’80s.
While admitting that Galway were disappointed with the result, he stressed that “this was an impressive performance from a Galway side that had six of last year’s minor team involved. There is a lot of credit due to both sets of players. No one gave up. There was a fear in Galway that they might crack when they hadn’t played a competitive game ahead of this outing. They showed great character. There were 35 very committed players who gave us a massive commitment and Galway were delighted with that. They were also delighted for Clare.”
The Tubber man added that “Galway followers were hugely impressed by the reaction of the Clare supporters who were out on the pitch immediately after the game to applaud their team. They certainly made themselves heard.”
O’Connor was also full of praise for the Clare backroom team. “Clare were very good on the sideline and a lot of credit must go to this management team. They have been fantastic all season. They took last year’s disappointment on the chin. They said nothing, kept their powder dry and hit back this year. When they got the chance they took it. They have a very united panel. They have made a lot of good calls and they did it again on Saturday.”
The Clare native admitted that he thought victory was going to be Galway’s when they scored their final goal.
“I felt at that stage that Galway were going to win as I couldn’t see Clare coming back again but they did. The Clare backs were fiercely disciplined on the day. In fact both sets of backs were very disciplined and conceded few frees”.
What about Joe Canning’s performance? “Our game plan was to keep the ball going in high to him and it worked well. He is a superb player with all the skills.”
What about Clare’s chances against Kilkenny in the final?
“They have a great chance. Their workrate and spirit is strong. They have a huge advantage in that they have had three games whereas Kilkenny have really only had one test which was against Dublin. These Clare lads have been questioned every day and they have answered those questions. They have firepower all over the pitch. The return of Cian Dillon following injury is a huge addition. Their management will not let the occasion get to them. Nothing seems to faze them,” O’Connor concluded.