Having led Galway to victory with a 10-point haul in 2001, manager Padraic Joyce knows what it takes
Galway senior footballers have reached their first All-Ireland final in 21 years, thanks to a professional and composed performance against a dogged and determined Derry team.
The scoreline of 2-8 to 1-6 may reflect a dull game, and in comparison to the thrilling quarter-final match against Armagh, it certainly was. But the result is what mattered as Galway produced a winning display which shattered Derry's expectations, while also raising those of every Galway person in the county and beyond.
Much like their previous match, Galway started on the back foot, and it took until the 21st minute for Damien Comer to burst through the Derry defence and put the ball over the bar for Galway’s first score. From then until the final whistle Padraic Joyce’s side was the better team and fully deserving of the victory.
Despite trailing 0-3 to 0-0 after 20 minutes Galway - no thanks to a controversial hawk-eye decision- Galway entered the break with the scores tied 0-4 apiece.
However, Galway started the second half with gusto - Shane Walsh firing over three frees with his left boot after scoring a ‘45 with his right just before half-time. At the end of the third quarter, a delightful ball in from John Daly allowed Comer to turn his marker and coolly put the ball into the Derry net.
It gave Galway a six-point lead, while their defence never looked like letting Derry back into the game. The much-heralded Derry full-forward line of Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, and Niall Loughlin were kept to just two points among them, thanks to impressive performances from Liam Silke, Seán Kelly, and Jack Glynn.
Derry, having scored three points in the opening 12 minutes of the game, only managed to score a further three points from then until the fourth minute of injury time - when they scored a late consolation goal.
It demonstrated how Galway improved throughout the game, but also the excellence of their defensive - a fact noted by manager Padraic Joyce, who said Derry had put up some huge scores throughout the championship, so to keep them to just 1-6 across the seventy-plus minutes of football was a testament to the amount of work Galway had put into their defensive structure in the last year.
By the 64th minute with goalkeeper Odhrán Lynch up the field, John Daly turned over ball and fed Liam Silke, who deliverted a diagonal ball into Comer. The Annaghdown powerhouse again turned his man before firing into an empty net from 35 yards out.
It gave Galway a cushion of 2-8 to 0-5 and one they were never going to relinquish as they had against Armagh.
Somewhat surprisingly Derry never delivered high balls to test if Galway had improved in that defensive area. However, having almost lost a commanding lead in a number of games this year, Galway have shown across all five championship matches that they can mix it with any type of system played by their opponents.
No one in the Galway team, management, or supporters will complain about the late consolation goal for Derry as the Tribesmen are back to where Joyce always said he wanted to bring them - competing on All-Ireland final day.
It is an All-Ireland final that has many similarities to 1998 including, beating Mayo and Leitrim followed by a Connacht final win against Roscommon. and a five-point defeat of Derry in the semi-final. The west will hope that augurs well for this much anticipated decider.
Galway: C Gleeson; L Silke, S Kelly, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly (0-1 ), K Molloy; P Conroy, M Tierney; C McDaid, D Comer (2-2 ), J Heaney (0-1 ); P Kelly, R Finnerty, S Walsh (0-4, 50, 3 frees ). Subs: F O’ Laoi for Heaney (61 ), B Mannion for Comer (68, D Conneely for Finnerty (68 ), Paul Kelly for Patrick Kelly (73 ).
Derry:O Lynch; C McKaigue, B Rogers (0-2 ), C McCloskey; C Doherty, G McKinless, P McGrogan; C Glass, E Doherty; P Cassidy, S Downey, N toner; B Heron, S McGuigan (0-4, 3 frees, 50 ), N Loughlin (0-1 ). Subs: E Bradley for S Downey (45 ),L Murray (1-0 ) for N Toner (54 ), B McCarron for B Heron (61 ).
Referee: B Cawley (Kildare ).