Galway emerged as real contenders for the All-Ireland title when they shocked Kilkenny with a fully deserved win in the Leinster hurling final on Sunday.
The westerners never let the All-Ireland champions settle as they recorded their first ever Leinster title success with the shock of the hurling summer.
Manager Anthony Cunningham produced a tactical master plan to dethrone the champions as Galway recorded the 2-21 to 2-11 win.
Kilkenny simply had no answer to Galway’s whirlwind start and managed only four scores in the first half as they trailed by 2-12 to 0-4 at the interval.
But boss Cunningham was at pains to insist his team have a bigger goal to chase as they look for All-Ireland glory later this summer.
He told RTE Sport, “We’re delighted to have won Leinster. It’s the end of that competition for us today and it’s history. But we’re in a new series now which is the All-Ireland series and it’s knockout from here on out and we’re going to have to be ready for that.
“It was a great start against Kilkenny. We’ve been going well in training and we’ve put a huge amount of work into this.
“I think the guys have the skill and they have the hunger and they have the will to win and I just hope that from today they’ll learn as much as they can out there and use it to perfection the next day because we’ll need it.”
The Galway manager also had words of comfort for Kilkenny. “We haven’t seen the last of Kilkenny, and there’s a lot of big teams out there who will be now looking to go on and take our scalp the next day,” he said.
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody told RTE Sport that his team were “wiped out” by Galway as they experienced their first championship defeat since the 2010 All-Ireland final against Tipperary and their first defeat in Leinster in eight years.
“I said before the game that on any given day they could beat us and we could beat them,” said Cody. “Certainly, they beat us today, beat us convincingly. Obviously, in the first-half they wiped us out, if you like.
“We regrouped in the second half and took the fight to them and we were genuine to the very end. That’s sport, it’s very hard to explain these things and I don’t have the explanations, I don’t have the answers.”
Like his manager, Galway captain Fergal Moore has set his sights on the ultimate prize after downing the All-Ireland champions.
Moore said, “There’s only one cup that everyone wants to win at the start of the year when they go back training in January and that’s the Liam McCarthy.
“It’s hugely satisfying beating Kilkenny and winning Leinster. But the year can’t be about the Leinster title for Galway -- 2012 can’t be about making history in a Leinster final.”
Having conceded seven goals in their previous two games, Galway were determined to get their defensive house in order on Sunday. They were also intent on shutting Kilkenny out of the game from the outset.
Moore added, “We were probably guilty in other games of switching off when we were 14 or 15 points ahead. It helps to sharpen minds when you’re marking the top six forwards in the country.
“The biggest difference was right from number 15 back to number one we defended as a unit. The work rate was absolutely phenomenal, the hooking and the blocking the forwards and midfielders did made our jobs very easy as defenders.”
DUBLIN hurling captain Johnny McCaffrey wants manager Anthony Daly to stay on for another year despite the bitter disappointment of Saturday night’s 1-16 to 0-16 defeat to Clare in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Daly has admitted his future is unsure after Dublin’s season came to an abrupt end against his native county in Ennis.
But McCaffrey wants Daly to stay on. He told the Irish Sun, “We’d be hoping he does stay and will do all we can to convince Anthony to stay.
“If you look at how far he has brought us from where we were in 2008, the professional set up, the new players brought in -- everyone is onside and going in the one direction with a common goal.
“He has been brilliant to us and we definitely want the management team to stay on.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet. It’s still very early days and I think everyone needs to take a break for a few weeks and then hopefully we’ll get together to talk about what happened and look to the future.”
When asked about his own future after the Clare defeat, Daly said, “I don’t know to be honest with you. I didn’t know if it would be one or two years or what I’d be doing with Dublin when I met the lads over in Killaloe four years ago and they asked me to have a go at it.
“I’d never make decisions like that on the night of the game. There’s no point. You’re all emotional. There is plenty of time. There are more than me making that decision.
“It has been a very disappointing year, there’s no doubt about it. To lose in a qualifier there is no other way to describe it. Maybe last year got to lads’ heads a bit, I don’t know.”
Clare survived the dismissal of Nicky O’Connell for a second bookable offense to record a famous win over a fancied Dublin side.
Man of the match John Conlon typified Clare’s spirit on the day and afterwards he told RTE Radio, “That was fantastic stuff from Clare. When we went down to 14 men we were outstanding.
“Every one of those Clare lads has given 100% this year and the crowd can give out about passing and whatever, these lads have given everything this year.
“It’s just great because I’ve been on the panel now for four years and this is the first championship win in eight games.”
Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald also paid tribute to the spirit displayed by his team in Saturday’s win after their second half drive.
“I knew they wouldn’t fall away, I knew they would keep fighting until the very end,” said Fitzgerald.
“The fight, the passion, the fact that we never stopped. There were some amount of tackles out there, Dublin put in some amount of tackles, and they are a fair team. They worked hard, we worked hard and we came out on top.”
CORK boss Conor Counihan found plenty of room for criticism after his team’s expected win over Clare in the Munster SFC final in Limerick on Sunday.
The Rebels were easy winners on a 3-16 to 0-13 scoreline, but Counihan saw plenty of room for improvement.
“Goals were important and we were fortunate to get a few. Clare had opportunities as well, probably in the second half and didn’t take them,” said Counihan.
“We’d have been disappointed with the second half. We think Clare probably won the second half and we didn’t push on enough. We had the comfort of a couple of goals of a lead and we didn’t build on that.
“We made some basic errors and against a team that would finish better, we’d have been in trouble. We can’t be too negative about it, we’ve won a Munster championship for the first time in three years.”
Clare boss Micheal McDermott was philosophical about the result but critical of match referee Eddie Kinsella, who allowed a controversial third goal for Cork.
McDermott said, “We were very, very competitive despite going one goal, two goals, three goals down. We kept fighting.
“Last year we probably hung the heads and we gave in when we were down in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Here we didn’t. We kept battling right to the end and that was the most pleasing thing about today.
“We had some crazy, crazy decisions against us in the second half, but we held our discipline, we took it on the chin. That’s what Clare football is all about, battling right to the end no matter what is thrown in front of you.”
OFFALY’S season is over after a 1-26 to 2-16 defeat to Cork in the All-Ireland qualifiers on Saturday night, with manager Ollie Baker critical of the current championship structures.
“We’re disappointed, I have 30 lads who’ve put in seven, eight months’ effort, but we’re not going to see a competitive fixture until next February,” Baker told reporters after the game.
“For us to develop as a team, we can’t be competitive on a consistent basis unless we’re playing matches. We’re out of the championship now, but there are a lot of lads inside there who want to be playing hurling. Maybe there should be another look at the structures to make that happen. “We need matches. Challenge matches and training matches are grand, but the amount a game like this will bring the players on but it’s another seven months before we play again.
“That’s a crazy system on one hand, but you can’t reward teams for losing matches either, so you have to have a balance.”
Cork boss Jimmy Barry Murphy said his team were flattered by the seven-point win.
“To win by seven points certainly flattered us. In fairness, it was never a game like that,” said Counihan.
“It’s a learning curve. I kept saying that we weren’t as good as people thought. I think that’s obvious. To win the game at least is a great boost and we’ll move on with confidence after the win.”
PETER Canavan is to remain in charge of the Fermanagh footballers for at least another year despite his team’s defeat to Cavan in the All-Ireland qualifiers. The Fermanagh County Board met with Canavan over the week then released a statement confirming the former Tyrone star is to stay on . . .
CORK will play Wexford and Limerick will meet Clare in the final round of the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers on Saturday with the winners through to the quarter-finals of the championship. Both games will be played in Thurles . . .
KERRY defender Daniel Bohan will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in training, while Darran O’Sullivan could miss this weekend’s All-Ireland qualifier against Westmeath with a hamstring injury . . .
MIDFIELDER Mickey Murphy will miss Tyrone’s All-Ireland qualifier against Roscommon with a medial ligament injury but Justin McMahon should return at full-back for the Ulster side . . .
SEANIE Johnston may have to wait for his Kildare debut with a shoulder injury picked up in training making him doubtful for Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against his old team Cavan . . .
THE Tipperary minor footballers continued to blaze a trail for football in the county when they defeated Kerry in the Munster MFC final in Limerick on Sunday to retain their title . . .
ANTRIM made it 11 Ulster title wins in a row when they easily defeated Derry by 18 points in the provincial hurling final at Casement Park in Belfast on Sunday . . .
CORK forward Patrick Kelly is confident he will be fit for the All-Ireland quarterfinal after a groin injury ruled him out of Sunday’s Munster SFC win over Clare . . .
DOWN are to appeal against the one match ban which threatens to rule Conor Garvey out of the Ulster football final against Donegal on Sunday, July 22 . . .
DONEGAL midfielder Neil Gallagher is a major injury doubt with an ankle problem for the Ulster final against Down in Clones on Sunday, July 22 . . .
THE Dublin hurling minors retained their Leinster minor title when they defeated Wexford in the final at Croke Park on Sunday . . .
Eamonn O’Hara and David Kelly are Sligo’s major injury doubts for Sunday’s Connacht Football final clash with Mayo.