Joe Canning - a key player in Galway's side for Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tipperary
Conor Hayes, in reflecting back to his own playing days, and particularly the intense rivalry of the period between Galway and Tipp, felt his 80s side should have won more than the two All-Irelands that they did win
“The rivalry between the sides was intense and two good teams came together about the same time. We had lost two finals in a row in ’85 and ’86 and needed to win one. We lost to Offaly in 1985, and felt we should have won in ’86 against Cork. We should have had it won at half-time but fell apart in the second half. We were fiercely determined after that not to lose again,” added Hayes.
“We beat Tipp in the semi-final in 1987 before we defeated Kilkenny in the final and met Tipp again the following year and won a tough hard-fought final.
“In 1989 we were going for three in-a-row but that turned out to be a frustrating experience for us. There was the whole Tony Keady affair (Keady, ‘Hurler of the Year’ the previous year, was suspended from the semi-final because he had played in the American championship) but we were also without Martin Naughton who got injured the previous Sunday and that was a huge loss to us. Naughton was really flying it at that time and would have made a big difference. We were all wound up before the final and little went right on the day. Sylvie (Linnane) and Michael McGrath were both sent off. The referee that day was awful and seemed to completely lose the plot especially towards the end of the game. We didn’t get frees we felt we should have and Tipp got theirs. But even allowing for all that, had we steadied ourselves we could have won that game. But Tipp were coming good also,” reflected Hayes, an All-Ireland club hurling medal winner in 1992 with his native Kiltormer.
“No disrespect to Antrim who were waiting to play the winners in the final, we would surely have gone on to win the All-Ireland (denying Hayes the distinction of being the only man in history to lift the McCarthy Cup three years running). It was hugely disappointing and frustrating afterwards when our bid was over. But in fairness to Tipperary they needed to win an All-Ireland also. That game, like all the others was tough, the hurling was tough, but we had great respect for them, and Tipp respected us too,’ concluded Conor Hayes.