Instructive day in Croker for Galway footballers

Galway's Damien Comer and Kevin McManamon of Dublin in action from the Allianz Football division one final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Galway's Damien Comer and Kevin McManamon of Dublin in action from the Allianz Football division one final at Croke Park on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

The Galway senior footballers may have been beaten by Dublin on Sunday by 0-18 to 0-14 in the division one league final, but it was a productive and instructive day for Kevin Walsh, his management team, and the squad.

All will have learnt from tussling at a high and competitive standard for 75 minutes with the best team in Ireland over the past few years.

Dublin deserved to win, but the result was not a done deal until the last four or five minutes. Galway will rue a few unecessary mistakes in the first half, including two kicks straight into Stephen Cluxton's arms that proved costly.

Taking the wrong option a few times in that first half let Dublin off the hook a little and saw the sides level at 0-8 each at half-time.

On 64 minutes, after Damien Comer had hit a real monster point, there was only one score between the sides, 0-15 to Dublin and Galway 0-14.

Galway had a chance to hit another score a few minutes later when Paul Conroy took on a shot - a layoff to a supporting player would have been the better option.

Dublin took over for the last 10 minutes, including injury time, and late scores by Philly McMahon, hugely impressive substitute Colm Basquel, and Dean Rock saw them over the line with some degree of comfort in the finish.

Dublin closed out the game superbly

Their game management for the last seven or eight minutes was superb, and Galway could hardly get their hands on the ball despite having a numerical advantage.

The Dubs are very experienced and mobile, and the way they ran down the clock was a real example to all teams of how to close out a game.

According to their team manager Jim Gavin, they controlled the game. And he was absolutely correct about the last 10 minutes, at least.

“We played it on our terms, which is what we try to do in all the games we play. Defensively, we were very solid to limit Galway to six scores in the second half. We got that bit right in our game. We played with great intent and we drove hard and went at them."

Ironically it was when Niall Scully was correctly red carded by inconsistent referee Anthony Nolan (Wicklow ) - who should have black carded Scully for a foul on Damien Comer in the first quarter - that the other Dublin players really picked up their collective work-rate.

Bryan Fenton, Ciarán Kilkenny, McMahon, and young Eoin Murchan really tore into the fray, winning some important possessions and linking play ever so smoothly.

The Galway players will hopefully learn from Dublin's ability to increase the tempo of their play when their need was greatest.

That type of innate knowledge and big game experience of what to do at different stages in a contest is extremely difficult to coach, and players need to learn how to do it themselves inside the white lines.

Six weeks to Mayo clash

Galway now have six weeks before they face Mayo in McHale Park, in what will be a massive sell-out championship clash on May 13, to work on what they have learnt from their solid and industrious league campaign.

Each player needs to reflect on their performances, and see what "learnings" there are, where they can improve, and how they need to adapt certain aspects of their own game.

From Ruairí Lavelle, who had a storming game with his stunning save off Dean Rock - a really tremendous bit of goalkeeping - up to Shane Walsh, who kicked two superb points from a free and play - every player has positives to take out of the team's performance.

However, they also need to look at what they can learn and improve on.

A really quality team like Dublin will punish you every time you make a mistake, and three or four of their scores came directly from Galway players not using the ball as well as they could.

That is understandable, but to be a top four team, which Galway are aiming to be, lessons have to learnt from competing with the best.

Hence, while it was disappointing to lose, and it always is to lose a final, the squad will feel that they can improve on their display.

As team manager Kevin Walsh pointed out after the game - last weekend was a great learning experience for the panel.

“Taking everything into account, I suppose it's a big learning curve for the team," Walsh said. " It was important we were there coming up the home stretch and the lads were. They're disappointed we gave away a few late points. However, overall, for a team that had maybe five lads who started last Sunday who haven't kicked a championship ball yet, it was important for us to see how they would react at headquarters."

Walsh was proud of how Galway battled hard with a team that has won the Sam Maguire five out of the last seven years, and the league five out of the last six years.

“Dublin are All-Ireland champions for a reason," he sayd. "They are really, really good at ball retention, so that is a lesson I suppose in a way that we'd be hoping to learn from them for the future. They're a long-time around the block. We are in division one, and in the league final to learn, and no better team to learn from. There are things we have to pick up and we will.”

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