Galway are into a first Allianz Hurling League final since 2010 after Conor Cooney’s second-half goal saw them past Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds.
Galway dominated for the most part, other than a bright start to the second-half from Limerick that closed the gap to three points. But after Cooney’s goal and five unanswered points Galway cruised to the final on a scoreline if 1-21 to 1-11.
Limerick hit 17 wides, a tally sure to annoy manager John Kiely ahead of their Munster championship semi-final against Clare in June.
Galway captain David Burke won the toss and elected to play with the advantage of the very strong wind in the first-half at the Gaelic Grounds and that decision helped his side to a 0-13 to 1-5 lead at the interval.
Like when the sides met at the same venue three weeks ago, there was a bite to the action as both teams showed great tenacity under the breaking ball, while the hits carried championship intent rather than national league politeness.
But even without the wind advantage Galway looked the better team as the points flowed from play easier than at the other end.
Two minutes in Cathal Mannion hoovered up a break off the post to score his first of three points from play before the break, while Shane Dowling responded with a free, Conor Cooney tapped over two excellent points to give Galway a 0-03 to 0-01 lead.
When the sides last met Joe Canning proved the difference between the sides with his 0-10 haul, but Declan Hannon put the shackles on him in the early stages, until he was forced from the field after 16 minutes.
His replacement Gavin O’Mahony brought some quality to the half-back line as the quality of ball into his forwards improved thereafter, although Canning then grew into the game.
By the time Hannon left Galway were 0-06 to 0-03 ahead as Padraic Mannion and Conor Whelan added points from play, but in the 20th minute Limerick’s revival was given a boost when William O’Donoghue kicked to the net after David Demspey’s clever pass sent him clear.
Galway’s response was controlled as Johnny Coen scored off Canning, before the Portumna man fired over two frees to restore Galway’s four-point lead.
A brilliant block form O’Mahony denied Canning a point on the half-hour mark and after an immediate counter attack drew a foul, Dowling added a point for the home side.
But that inspiration was fleeting for Limerick as Galway hit the last two points of the half as Canning added a free and an assist as Cathal Mannion gave Galway a five-point cushion.
Dowling missed his first free of the second-half as he struggled to judge the wind, but he hit a fine points from play a minute later to cut Galway’s advantage to four points.
But Canning added a free and David Burke hit his first of the game in the 46th minute as Galway edged further clear, only for three Limerick points in four minutes to give the home crowd some hope.
But 14 minutes from time the dream of a first league final title in 20 years disappeared when Conor Cooney crept inside the full-back line and batted past Nickie Quaid for the clincher.
Final score Galway 1-21 Limerick 1-11
Galway: C Callanan; Adrian Tuohy, J Hanbury, A Harte; P Mannion (0-01), G McInerney, Daithi Burke; J Coen (0-01), David Burke (c) (0-02); P Brehony, J Canning (0-07, 0-06f), J Cooney; C Whelan (0-02), C Mannion (0-03), C Cooney (1-04).
Subs used: T Monaghan (0-01) for Brehony (53), P Killeen for Hanbury (55), N Burke for J Cooney (63), J Flynn for Whelan (66), S Loftus for David Burke (68),
Limerick: N Quaid; R English, R McCarthy, M Casey; D Byrnes (0-01), D Hannon, S Hickey; A Dempsey, W O’Donoghue (1-00); S Dowling (0-05), D Dempsey (0-01), G Hegarty (0-01); C Lynch (0-01), K Hayes, G Mulcahy.
Subs used: G O’Mahony for Hannon (16 mins), S Finn for Hickey (38), B Nash (0-02) for Mulcahy (48), J Ryan for A Dempsey (53), J Fitzgibbon for D Dempsey (53),
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).
The Club Players Association (CPA) has criticised the latest proposals to reform the GAA playing calendar, saying they fall "far short of what is required".
Seven motions aimed at easing pressure on club fixtures will be put forward at Special Congress on September 30, but they are "inadequate" according to the CPA.
The statement in full reads:
We have today been given sight of the motions (as attached) issued by Croke Park for the Special Congress that in their words, "Facilitate the Playing of Club Games.’
There are seven motions in total. We had hoped for one motion. A bold, brave and definitive motion that would cut through the short term planning and provide for a national fixtures plan for Club and County. A motion that would restore the balance in the GAA.
It is the view of the CPA that the seven motions circulated fall far short of what is required from the leadership of the organisation. Leadership that repeats and uses the rhetoric of the Club and the Club player being at the centre of the GAA. There is a serious discord and disconnect between the idea and the reality in the GAA in the current era, and it is threatening the fabric of our Association.
We are deeply concerned at the direction we are taking as an Association, with a growing imbalance between the income-generating big business wing of the GAA, directed and managed by paid officials, and the volunteer club ethos at local community level. The CPA is firmly in the latter category.
Individual club players and their club officials can decide if the motions circulated address their fundamental concerns about fixtures, about priorities in the GAA, about player welfare, about dropout rates and the future sustainability of their clubs, and about the duration and planning of the playing season.
It is the view of the CPA that these motions are inadequate, and tinker with issues around replays, player release to clubs, the running off of the British GAA championships. These are issues of concern in particular circumstances, but they should be addressed as part of a wider solution and a fixtures masterplan that encompasses club and county players. In reality the motions change little.
Every other national sporting body has a short, medium and long term strategy. Often their funding and accountability is predicated on planning and games development for all units.
As unpaid GAA volunteers embedded in our clubs, we are deeply disappointed that it appears the opportunity has once again been squandered to place the Club, the fundamental unit of our great Association, at the heart of planning and development.
Is it arrogance, a lack of concern for club players, or fear of real meaningful change that prevents our Association from grasping the seriousness of the issues that we face and addressing these fundamental problems?
In recent weeks we have had senior officials commenting on ticket touting, on rock concerts in Croke Park, and television deals, meanwhile the club player sits and wonders whether he should stick around for the summer months.
The CPA presented Croke Park with a national fixture plan some months back that showed how club and county can co-exist.
We pointed out that three critical elements are needed to achieve this harmony.
April designated as a club only month
Club All Irelands played in a calendar year
December a month of downtime and rest for all players.
Why aren’t these being discussed at Central Council or presented in a national strategy? These are issues that benefit the club player in a meaningful way and relate directly to the GAA’s core purpose.
These proposals were widely debated, and received positive feedback among various players, pundits, commentators and administrators. They were not perfect but they were a start.
We have also learned this week that there will be pre Congress meetings in each of the four provinces to brief county boards. At the time of the Super 8 proposals, there were similar roadshows. Each county board is being asked to send their 5 delegates to the pre Congress meeting.
Is every unit that brings forward a proposal afforded the equal option of lobbying county boards throughout the country? Is this the way GAA democracy works?
What is the purpose of these meetings? We are told that GAA is a democratic organisation and we are bound by the vote of Congress. If the GAA is serious about consultation then by all means have open meetings, but engage in an open process that can invite and take on board the views of all members. This has been done in the past for example under GAA Football Review Committee (FRC) led by Eugene McGee.
We sent correspondence to every county board secretary recently inviting and encouraging them to support a motion (that was unanimously agreed in Wexford County Board) at the next Central Council meeting that proposes to free up the month of April for club activity only.
Our hope is that this club friendly motion would be discussed at county board meetings across the country and supported at the Central Council meeting so they can understand that county and club can co-exist and that a master plan is possible with goodwill and engagement by all parties, GAA management, county boards, provincial councils and clubs.
As it stands we speak for the club player, and will continue to do so to give them a voice.