Galway’s championship aspirations for 2019 ground to a shuddering halt in dramatic circumstances last Saturday evening, as Dublin pulled off the shock result of the year so far in front of a sell-out crowd in Parnell Park.
Chris Crummey’s late goal for the home side proved to be an electrifying contest’s decisive score as Dublin refused to buckle under the relentless pressure of Galway’s point-scoring ability. Five times in the closing stages Galway opened up a one-point lead but each time Dublin had an answer and it was hard to begrudge them a win, which will give them huge confidence going forward.
When the final whistle blew all eyes and ears of a maroon persuasion turned to the news from the night’s other game between Kilkenny and Wexford, in which there had never been much between two sides who were also going at it hammer and tongs for a place in the Leinster final.
In the end, the result that all Galway fans were afraid of came to pass, as Lee Chin’s successful free in stoppage time, after an earlier effort had struck an upright and gone wide, led to a draw that suited both managers in the end, as both go on to do battle again in Croke Park on June 30.
It was a harsh outcome for Galway, who had to deal with a six-day turnaround after an energy-sapping win over Kilkenny, but they could have little complaint about the outcome in their final group game, as Dublin’s goal-scoring ability kept them very much in a contest that Galway appeared to have under control.
Excellent finishes by livewire forward Eamonn Dillon and defender Seán Moran (penalty ) were Dublin’s only scores in a 20 minute spell either side of half time, while Galway fired over seven points of their own in that time but ended up only level when Oisín O’Rorke blazed over a 48th minute point.
Joe Canning’s introduction to rapturous acclaim only two minutes earlier was perhaps an indication, though, that all was not quite right with Galway’s attack, replacing Adrian Tuohey who had less of an impact on this occasion, while Conor Whelan early exit through injury was another blow. Canning split the posts with his both his first and second touches, but Dublin were able to limit his influence thereafter.
When the game was most definitely in the balance, the veteran Conal Keaney came up trumps for Dublin with three points from play, while goalkeeper Alan Nolan took full advantage of the tight pitch to drive over from well inside his own half.
The game became frenetic and unstructured in the closing minutes, which did not suit a tiring Galway side who prefer order to chaos. When Crummey, a giant of a man at 6ft 7” tall, burst through the centre and bounced off a rock-solid shoulder from the exposed Daithí Burke, his shot rippled the net and Galway’s hopes began to fade fast.
Chasing goals has never been their forte, and Dublin held out in the end relatively comfortably to secure what must have been a satisfying win for Mattie Kenny, who failed to get the Galway job when Micheál Donoghue took over in 2015.
The theories around Galway’s earliest championship exit since 1965 will be plentiful, but the absence of the scoring power and influence of Canning, the finest hurler of his generation, from the first two games in particular must surely rank among the highest on any list.
Defensively Galway were perceived to be easier to get through this year, but the fact is they only conceded five more points in total (85 ) than they did when winning all four Leinster round robin games in 2018. In the scoring zone, though, they were 17 points worse off so it becomes a little clearer where they struggled.
There were also factors outside of their control that contributed to their elimination. Dublin would have been removed from the equation entirely had Seán Moran’s shot not squirmed beneath a gaggle of Wexford defenders to earn an unlikely draw, while the odds on Wexford and Kilkenny also playing out a draw were remote.
The core of this Galway panel battled through four lengthy campaigns in succession before this year and while they may never admit it, perhaps a break will do them good with a wide-open senior club championship not set to resume until the weekend of August 11.
Dublin: A Nolan (0-1 ); P Smyth, E O'Donnell, S Barrett; S Moran (1-0 pen ), C Hendricken, C Crummey (1-0 ); S Treacy, T Connolly; C Keaney (0-3 ), C Boland (0-2 ), D Sutcliffe (0-2 ); L Rushe (0-1 ), O O'Rorke (0-9, 5fs,1 ‘65 ), E Dillon (1-1 ). Subs: J Madden for O'Donnell (15 mins ), F Whitely for Boland (47 mins ), D Grey for Hendricken (51 mins ), D O'Connell for Treacy (57 mins ), R Hayes for Rushe (65 mins ).
Galway: C Callanan (0-1f ); D Morrissey, D Burke, A Harte; P Mannion (0-1 ), J Cooney (0-1 ), G McInerney; J Coen (0-1 ), D Burke (0-3 ); J Glynn, C Mannion (0-9, 7fs ), A Tuohey; B Concannon (0-1 ), J Flynn (0-3 ), C Whelan (0-1 ). Subs: D Glennon (0-1 ) for Whelan (26 mins ), J Canning (0-2 ) for Tuohey (47 mins ), N Burke for Concannon (54 mins ), T Monaghan for N Burke (61 mins ), S Linnane for Coen (70 mins ).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork ).