Galway are on the verge of All-Ireland glory after proving their Leinster title success was no flash in the pan.
Anthony Cunningham’s side followed their impressive win over Kilkenny in the provincial decider with a deserved 0-22 to 0-17 victory over Cork in Sunday’s semifinal.
Cunningham was delighted with the win and told RTE, “We are now in the final, and any team that gets to the final they want to win it. The players have worked so hard, with the management team, since we met in November last year.
“They have given us everything really, everything out of their lives, and it showed out there.
“We gave young players their chances this year and we benefited from giving youth its fling but just reaching the final will not be enough now.
“We have done a lot of work with them. We put faith in young players and I’m delighted for the players that they are in the final, but the final is a lonely place if you don’t win.
“We want to win and are going to prepare hard for it. We don’t mind who we play.”
Cunningham is adamant the wins over Kilkenny and Cork this season will stand to his team in the September decider.
He added, “You can’t coach the experience you get in hard games. It’s great learning. The players have developed immensely from their experience of the big day. It was very satisfying for us that the lads kicked on from the Leinster final.
“Every player who played there today will learn a lot about their own game. We will be asking them to analyze, and we have a lot to improve on, but no matter what team wins a semi-final they will look for improvements for the final.”
Galway midfielder Andy Smith was happy to win ugly as his team marched into the All-Ireland final.
The Tribesmen followed up their Leinster final win over Kilkenny with a hard earned result against the Rebels to book a September date with Tipperary or the Cats who meet in the last four this weekend.
Smith said, “We were always on top in the three games in the Leinster SHC but at least we won ugly against Cork which is no harm at all.
“It was totally different to the Leinster final. We came out all guns blazing in the Leinster final. We knew well it was going to be a different game today because Cork are a young, pacy side and we knew we wouldn’t get the space upfront.
“They dropped a man back and sorted of crowded it out as well. We knew we were in for a tough shift, which it was.”
Smith, a sub when Galway lost the 2005 All-Ireland final to Cork, doesn’t care who his side meet now in the final.
He added, “We’ll let Kilkenny and Tipperary battle it out and see what happens. We’ll knuckle down, we’ve a lot of work to do and we’ll just worry about ourselves and let that result take care of itself.”
THE Kerry footballers need a new manager after Jack O’Connor announced his decision to step down last weekend.
The former All-Ireland winner confirmed his departure just a week after the defeat to Donegal in the All-Ireland quarterfinals.
Mick O’Dwyer has already ruled himself out of the running for the job, with under-21 boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice, John Evans and Liam Kearns in the frame to succeed O’Connor.
A statement from Kerry GAA said, “Jack O’Connor has confirmed to the chairman of Kerry County Committee Patrick O’Sullivan that he has resigned as Kerry senior team manager.
“The chairman wishes on behalf of Kerry GAA to thank Jack, his selectors and backroom team for all their commitment and hard work over the past number of years.”
O’Connor told RTE Radio, “I felt myself it was the right time to go. I intimated that to the board and they told me take a few days. I met with the management team during the week and we decided then and there.
“The chairman Patrick O’Sullivan was a good guy to work with and said to take a few more days to be sure. I woke up this morning and felt it was the right decision.
“I’ve been with some of these guys for a long time. I’ve been with the likes of Tomas O Se back as far as 1998 at under-21 level. We’ve soldiered long and hard and won a good bit, and lost a bit, so I just feel it is the right time for a new voice in the dressing room.
“There was another year’s left on the management’s contract but you know in your gut when it is time to go and I felt I squeezed as much as I possibly could out of this particular team. A new voice coming in will get more out of them.
“I don’t think they are finished by any stretch of the imagination.
“I had to work very hard this year to get the boys form turned around and I felt we did that over the last month or so but we met a hungrier, stronger team than us last Sunday and sometimes you just have to face reality and that my time was up with this team.”
O’Connor added, “It’s been a tough year. There was a bit of hangover from losing the All-Ireland final. That was a very tough defeat, it was an All-Ireland we felt we could and should have won.
“There was a lot of baggage trying to deal with the fallout from that. I felt for a lot of this year I was finding it very, very hard to get the boys back where we needed them to be. We got a lot of satisfaction in the last four-to-six weeks when the boys turned that around and got back to where they needed to be. But it was year that took its toll.”
CORK boss Jimmy Barry Murphy has urged his players to learn from their All-Ireland disappointment.
The young Rebels lost out to Galway in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final as a promising season came to an end.
“The better team won on the day. We have no complaints,” said Barry Murphy afterwards.
“They picked off some great scores in the second half when we found it harder to get scores. They were the better team, no doubt about that.
“We certainly got opportunities but we found it harder to get scores than Galway did. I thought we played very well. We were in it until five minutes to go.
“Galway’s have some brilliant forwards and I think they just found their scores easier to come by than we did.”
Cork will go back to the drawing board over the winter, with their boss adamant they can progress even further in 2013.
He told RTE Radio, “We have certainly made progress this year but we have a long way to go. You saw Galway today and, Tipperary and Kilkenny equally, they are right up there.
“They are a bit higher than us and we have a lot of work to do yet. But I am delighted we have made some progress.”
JBM also believes Galway can put it up to Kilkenny or Tipperary in the All-Ireland decider.
He said, “Galway are an outstanding team. They are very, very physical, at the back especially. They have an outstanding centre-back and Fergal Moore had a great game today.
“Obviously, Joe Canning is a massive factor up front for them, although I thought Brian Murphy did a great job today.
“They are there with a great chance. We saw the Leinster final display and they are going into the All-Ireland final with a great chance.”
MAYO will definitely be without captain Andy Moran for the All-Ireland semifinal against Dublin after he picked up a serious knee injury in the quarterfinal win over Down.
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