Galway boss Henry Shefflin rues what might have been as Limerick edge semi-final
All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final: Galway 1-21 Limerick 0-27
DID the better team lose? Hand on heart, Henry Shefflin couldn’t say for sure if his Galway side deserved to topple defending All-Ireland champions Limerick – but what he did know was that they’d missed a golden opportunity to make heroes out of themselves at Croke Park yesterday.
In an epic All-Ireland semi-final played in front of 52,215 supporters, Limerick clung onto their Liam MacCarthy crown and will face Kilkenny in this year’s All-Ireland final on July 17 in the hope of making it an historic three-in-a-row.
As for Galway, it was a case of what might have been. Clocking up 17 wides didn’t help their cause – but they hurled brilliantly for long stretches of yesterday’s clash that will live long in the memory.
“You speak about getting a performance against such hot favourites – and I would’ve spoken about that myself, and that’s what we needed – but then you get the performance and you don’t get the result,” Shefflin smiled ruefully afterwards.
“Sport is cruel. It’s just very disappointing, you give it absolutely everything and then it’s all over and you just come up short."
While paying tribute to the victors for showing the mentality of great champions, Shefflin was asked did the better team lose.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” he replied.
“I’d have to watch the game back to tell you because you get so emotionally enthralled in the game. We had a very good opportunity to beat the double All-Ireland champions and we just came up short.”
Galway paid a heavy price for a poor start to yesterday’s semi-final with Aaron Gillane and Seamus Flanagan threatening to shoot the lights out in the early stages.
But the beaten Leinster finalists settled and only trailed 0-16 to 0-12 at the break. But within a few tumultuous minutes of the second period, they edged ahead thanks to a fantastic Brian Concannon goal and an outrageous point from Joe Cooney.
But Limerick’s bench had a major say in the outcome with David Reidy firing over three crucial points in the dying embers to extinguish Galway’s courageous challenge.
“We couldn’t seem to get that bit of momentum to get that two or three points in a row,” Shefflin said.
“When we got the goal we got ahead but we never got that bit of a gap. Our shooting efficiency let us down.
“We knew we’d have to take a lot of shots from range and you’re hoping they go over and we coughed up a few silly points in the first half too.
“All of those things come back to bite you a little bit. Limerick are true champions. We really went at them. It was only in that last phase, and their bench obviously made a bit of an impact. I haven’t looked at the numbers yet but they don’t matter when it’s all over but I’m sure the shooting efficiency will be low.
“I think Limerick’s bench seemed to sync a bit more seamless [than ours]; they’re obviously further down the line. That played a part and our shooting just needed to be on the money and it was just a little bit off.”
The result may have gone against the Tribesmen but Shefflin felt his players were enhanced by their performances after an erratic enough Championship campaign.
Shefflin added: “When we went down to Limerick in the National League we thought there was something in this group and I think we can say that again today… All the players put in a massive effort to play in a coliseum like that and when they reflect on it that I hope they enjoyed the occasion because that’s very important.”