After five straight defeats in the league, it appeared that Galway would be automatic candidates for relegation to division two for the 2012 season. However their form had picked up in the past few weeks and their impressive win over Armagh in round six gave them a sliver of light in avoiding the drop.
Despite a very lethargic first-half display on Sunday in Pearse Stadium, which saw them behind by eight at half time to Dublin, 2-08 to 0-6, the Galway footballers, galvanised by the introduction of Gareth Bradshaw, fought back to register a draw - Galway 0-15 to Dublin 2-09.
Their standard of play improved enormously after half-time to hit Dublin for eight points on the trot.
Indeed it looked as if Tomás Ó Flatharta’s charges might press on for the win in their last league game of the season, but Dublin rallied to go ahead by one again, thanks to substitute Dean Kelly. It took a late Cormac Bane point in injury time to share the points and the home side’s blushes.
It was an exciting second half display by Galway and one that probably merited a victory against a 14 man Dublin outfit, who had Alan Brogan red-carded for an early altercation with Johnny Duane, but the side’s inability to score a goal when they were on top cost them the two points.
Dublin’s two goals came as the result of bad mistakes in possession by Eoin Concannon and Joe Bergin who both gave the ball away cheaply and then had to watch Adrian Faherty pick the ball out of the net as a direct result of their sloppiness.
The Galway seniors will not return to full competitive action again until they play Mayo in the championship semi-final in McHale Park in the last Sunday of June. They have plenty of work to do between now and then if they want to reach a Connacht final, but at least the portents have been a bit better in late March and early April than they had been in the earlier months of the year.
The team has a more settled shape to it over the past few games with u-21 players Johnny Duane and Colin Forde improving in the full-back line, Gareth Bradshaw and Padraig Joyce returning from injury, and Paul Conroy getting his confidence back to shoot some good scores. Things have gradually improved from the defeats at the hands of Mayo and Kerry.
Greg Higgins has also enjoyed a few games at centre-back and Gary Sice seems much happier and productive at wing-back. The jury is still out on the move of Finian Hanley to midfield and it will be interesting to see if he and Joe Bergin will be the chosen two in the engine room in 10 weeks’ time.
The u-21s play Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday evening and, if a few of that squad impress, they too may be asked in to join the senior squad in their preparations for the up-coming Connacht championship.
Confidence has not been restored, but at least some hope has been rekindled.