The Galway footballers were knocked out of the championship on Saturday in Navan after being beaten by a point, 0-11 to 0-10, by a limited home side.
Meath should have won by a good bit more, to be honest, but they kicked a string of very bad wides in both halves and staged an almost total collapse in the second half to leave Galway in with an outside chance of victory.
The men in maroon could have staged a real smash and grab raid when a late goal opportunity came the way of Micheal Boyle and Cormac Bane. It did not materialise and Galway are out of the qualifiers for the third year in a row at the first fence, beaten by a single score.
Galway were behind by four points, 0-8 to 0-4, at the interval and it appeared Meath felt they would just kick on from there and close out the game easily.
As they went off at half time some of their players had the body language and antics of players who thought the game was over, instead of only one half.
An inspired display of ball winning from breaks by Matt Clancy in the second half and a composed performance by Finian Hanley, who was thankfully back in his best position, were key factors in turning the tie in Galway’s favour. Cormac Bane and Padraic Joyce also notched some good scores, as did Gareth Bradshaw and Johnny Duane.
Joe Bergin, too, had one of his better games and was doing quite well, which made it very strange to see him replaced after 53 minutes.
Galway led by 0-10 to 0-9 going into injury time, but two late points from substitute Brian Farrell and Stephen Bray sealed the deal for Seamus McEnaney’s side, which will now play Kildare this Saturday in Páirc Tailteann.
For Galway it is back to the drawing board and it will be interesting to see if Tomás Ó Flathárta is the man in charge for 2012.
According to football chairman John Joe Holleran, that decision will not be taken for a few weeks. These are just some questions to mull over before that decision is taken.
A few quick football questions:
1 - If Paul Conroy, Greg Higgins, Eoin Concannon and Danny Cummins were all considered better options than Fiachra Breathnach for game time against Mayo, what had changed two weeks later when Fiachra was the first man introduced for the injured Michael Meehan?
2 - How could it take Ó Flathárta and his management team until the second championship game of the season to realise that Finian Hanley would not work out as a midfielder or that Gareth Bradshaw is not a wing-forward?
The Salthill man had made his name with Galway as a good number three and, having seen him play in a few league games in the middle of the field, it seemed exceedingly obvious to most football people that it was a slot that did not suit him.
Why did it take them a galling six-point defeat against Mayo to figure that out and put Hanley back to his best position where he did very well against Meath?
3 - After 10 months of gym work, training, league games, challenges etc and thinking up strategies and formulas to attempt to compete at championship level, was the best they could come up with for taking 45s was to get Adrian Faherty to wander up the field and throw a boot at it?
He missed three of them last Saturday and it is a poor indictment of those in charge that he was considered their best option to take 45s. Just because it works for Stephen Cluxton and Dublin, does not mean it will here.
4 - Cormac Bane was taken off against Mayo. Greg Higgins, Alan Burke and Gary O’Donnell were not. And yet all those three were dropped against Meath and were given no game time (apart from two minutes for Burke as a blood sub ) even when the game was in the balance. How do you explain that one?
5 - After five defeats in division one, relegation to division two for next season, and two straight defeats in the championship, including a horrid display against Mayo and some incredible selections against Mayo, do Ó Flathárta or the county football chairman think the results and team selections over the last six months merit or justify another year in the job?