Mulholland's men tiptoe into round three

Conor Doherty of Galway escapes the attention of Conor Phelan of Waterford in action from the All Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifier round two at Pearse Stadium on Saturday.  		Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Conor Doherty of Galway escapes the attention of Conor Phelan of Waterford in action from the All Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifier round two at Pearse Stadium on Saturday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

There is not much to say about last weekend's one-point win over Waterford in the All-Ireland football qualifiers, except that Galway won it, and are in the pot for the next round on July 20.

At the final whistle in Pearse Stadium, the scoreboard read Galway 1-12 Waterford 0-14, and regardless of the paucity of Galway's performance, at least the team had the character to rescue what looked like a desperate situation going into the last quarter.

I stood on the terraces opposite the stand for the joust and, with 15 minutes to go, it looked likely Galway were going out of the championship, again, by a narrow margin.

So while the naysayers will lambast the display, at least the team showed some guts to get out of the quicksand and win. For that, we should be thankful.

Let us be honest here. If Waterford had taken a few of their chances when they led by three points in the second half, there would have been no way back for the home side.

Waterford had targeted this round two game since their defeat to Kerry and they came armed with a good plan and had some very lively forwards, especially young Paul Whyte who hit eight points.

The reality is that Galway is a very average team at the moment. Everyone knows that. However, that is no reason to ridicule the players or management who are doing their best to try to improve the situation.

There is not a lot between many teams now in divisions two, three or four when they meet in the championship.

To prove that point, I watched Roscommon almost defeat Tyrone last Saturday in Hyde Park. If Roscommon had kicked a few late scores instead of four wides, then John Evans would have taken all the plaudits for his defensive strategy.

Likewise, Waterford manager Niall Carew had his team well geared for their game with Galway and he was really gutted by their defeat.

“We worked so hard since the Kerry game. People forgot we were right in the Kerry game for 40 minutes, but we knew there were positives from that game and, while we got a performance against Galway, it wasn’t enough and I’m gutted for the lads.

"We left it behind us. We were three points up midway through the second half, and we had two other chances and missed them. You have to take those chances at this level and we rued them at the end."

Galway led by 0-10 to 0-7 at half time, but they did not score then for almost 25 minutes as Waterford went into a 0-13 to 0-10 lead.

Seán Armstrong finally stopped the rot with a free after some sterling work by Paul Conroy, who was key to Galway's win from midfield. Michael Martin, who did well on his introduction, then hit a point, and it was followed by a crucial goal by Michael Meehan following good work by Conroy and a deft hand-pass from Armstrong.

It was a cruel blow for Waterford, but Galway deserve praise for the way they stuck to the task and Meehan showed his experience as he smoothly slotted home the goal chance.

Alan Mulholland will know his players will need to find a much higher gear if they are to defeat the likes of Derry, Tyrone or Laois and the winners from the four games this Saturday if they are to get to round four.

However, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility - if they get a favourable draw and open their shoulders and play some good football.

If they did that and won and, if they got London in round four, we could be off to Croke Park for the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Stranger things have happened in sport.

Galway: M Breathnach; C Forde, F Hanley, J Duane; C Doherty, G O’Donnell, G Sice; P Conroy 0-4 (2f ), G Higgins; J O’Brien; S Armstrong 0-1 (f ), M Farragher; D Cummins 0-1, M Meehan 1-5 (0-1f ), M Hehir. Subs for Galway: K Kelly for Forde (28 ), M Martin 0-1 for Hehir (45 ), T Flynn for Higgins (49 ), S Denvir for Doherty (52 ), F O Curraion for O’Brien (60 ).

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