Sometimes, special games require unusual interjections from unlikely heroes to send the verdict one way or the other. Think of Seamus Darby’s goal in 1982, Eamonn Taaffe coming on, hitting the winner for Clare in ’95 and then going off again. Shane O’Donnell notching a hat-trick in the 2013 replay.
You can now add the name of Galway’s Aidan Harte to that unique ensemble. He is the prototype of the modern hurler, in that he can ply his trade comfortably in any sector of the pitch. Thus, his days as a half forward stood him in good stead as his late ‘Major’ sent last season’s All Ireland champions packing.
For the majority of the contest, it appeared the remarkable efforts of Noel McGrath and Jason Forde and Michael Breen were going to be enough to see Liam Sheedy’s charges hold onto their crown for at least one more day. However, goals from ‘Bonnar’ Maher and Seamie Callanan were matched at the other end by Brian Concannon and Cathal Mannion. The title holders still led by 2-13 to 2-09 at the break, but at no point did they look like they were going to put Shane O’Neill’s team away.
For the umpteenth time in his storied career, the prolific Portumna player had looked as if he was, in terms of scoring at least, going to single-handedly haul haul his county back from the abyss. Then, however, there was a seismic shift. The half time introductions of Jason Flynn and Adrian Tuohy being central to the transformation.
Perhaps mostly because of the fact that the arrival on the field of Tuohy enabled another highly significant procedure of transferring the versatile Harte up the other end of the field. A move which, in the end, sent the outgoing kingpins going out. To pigeonhole that as the only differentiation between the sides, mind you, would be foolhardy.
Cathal Barrett of Tipperary was once again at the centre of a contentious red card incident – getting his marching orders as the game entered its final furlongs. Even without that, however, gut instinct is to feel the men from the West had momentum with them at that stage anyway.
The relocation of the Mannion brothers, one higher up the field and one deeper out was highly influential, not only in their revival today but also in Harte’s game changing strike.