Galway finished top of Group A of the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 thanks to a 12-point turnaround in the second half of their clash against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday afternoon.
Shane O'Neill’s men had gone in at half-time trailing by 2-12 to 0-12 as Jack O’Connor netted for Cork just before the interval and the margin swelled to seven points when Rebels captain Patrick Horgan landed a free on the resumption.
However, Cork would only add ten more points to their tally, outscored by the visitors’ 3-13. Having gone into the final round of fixtures level at the top of the table with Tipperary, Galway secured top spot and a potential Leinster championship clash with Kilkenny will double up as the league final.
Cork, having been top of the virtual table at stages during the second half, end up in fifth spot, overtaken by Limerick by virtue of the counties’ head-to-head record.
Cork began the game well as a Horgan point inside 30 seconds was followed by a Conor Cahalane goal, set up by Horgan. Though Galway got off the mark through Seán Loftus, Shane Kingston’s point left the Rebels 1-02 to 0-01 ahead inside five minutes.
From there, Galway picked it up though and they were just a point behind, 1-04 to 0-06, by the time of the first water-break, with Evan Niland finding his range for them and also testing Patrick Colins with a goal attempt.
However, while Galway did eventually draw level at 1-06 to 0-09 when Brian Concannon got the first of his four points on 25 minutes, Cork eased clear again with scores from Darragh Fitzgibbon (two) and Mark Coleman.
The three-point margin still pertained after O’Connor got his second point on 32, a good run after winning a Collins puckout, and the corner-forward showed good awareness to capitalise on a mix-up from the resultant short puckout, firing home to give the home side that six-point half-time lead.
All seemed well for the Rebels when they moved seven clear, but Conor Whelan’s goal, set up by Cathal Mannion, brought Galway right back into it, Joseph Cooney cutting the lead to just three with his third point of the afternoon.
While Horgan’s frees kept Cork’s noses in front, Galway were reeling them in and the switch of Mannion to centre-forward after David Burke’s introduction gave them an extra dimension. He sent over two quick points and they were level at 2-17 each when Conor Cooney scored their second goal on 52, set up by Concannon from a Fintan Burke sideline cut.
Immediately after the water-break, wing-back Pádraic Mannion put them in front for the first time but Cork came back well with two Horgan frees and Darragh Fitzgibbon’s third point. That left it 2-20 to 2-18 but Cork didn’t lead again after Fintan Burke levelled.
While Concannon’s point was answered by another from Fitzgibbon, Cathal Mannion’s goal, with David Burke the provider, was the score to fully turn the tie in Galway’s favour.
Subs Niall Burke and Jason Flynn gave them a five-point cushion and that was the difference at the end.
Cork: Patrick Collins; Eoin Cadogan, Damien Cahalane, Seán O’Donoghue; Tim O’Mahony, Mark Coleman (0-01), Ger Millerick; Luke Meade, Darragh Fitzgibbon (0-04); Conor Cahalane (1-01), Séamus Harnedy, Shane Barrett; Shane Kingston (0-02), Patrick Horgan (0-11, 0-08f), Jack O’Connor (1-02).
Subs: Alan Cadogan for Barrett (half-time), Alan Connolly for Harnedy (53), Robbie O’Flynn (0-01) for Conor Cahalane (both 53), Billy Hennessy (0-01) for Meade (63), Declan Dalton for O’Connor (64), Tadgh Deasy for Kingston (67), Seán O’Leary Hayes for Millerick (69).
Galway: Éanna Murphy; Darren Morrissey, Gearóid McInerney, TJ Brennan; Pádraic Mannion (0-01), Daithí Burke, Fintan Burke (0-01); Seán Loftus (0-01), Cathal Mannion (1-02); Adrian Tuohey, Conor Whelan (1-01), Joseph Cooney (0-02); Brian Concannon (0-04), Evan Niland (0-08, 0-04f, 0-02 65), Conor Cooney (1-02).
Subs: Jack Fitzpatrick for Morrissey (44, injured), David Burke (0-01) for Tuohey (47), Jason Flynn (0-01f) for Conor Cooney (53), Niall Burke (0-01) for Joseph Cooney (57), Jarlath Mannion for Niland, Seán Linnane for McInerney (both 64).
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).