At half time last Sunday few, if any, Galway football supporters would have held out too much hope of a win for Tommy Joyce’s minor team in the All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park.
They were a few points down and Dublin looked by far the superior outfit. No surprise there, you may say, as Dessie Farrell’s team were raging hot favourites to win the title outright even before the throw-in.
However things improved immeasurably for Galway at the start of the second half. With Shane Maughan pushed into the edge of the square and the highly talented and gutsy Seán Moran moved out to midfield, Galway restarted in whirlwind fashion.
The young men in maroon rattled off 1-3 in a flash with Shane Walsh converting a penalty after Ian Burke had been dragged down in the square. Conor Rabbitte, who was in sublime form all through the contest, was using his electrifying pace to good effect and Shane Maughan was doing well at full-forward.
When Galway went three to the good, the Dublin outfit, which had scored a combined 8-78 in their previous championship outings, found themselves in unfamiliar territory and they looked unsure of themselves. They were held scoreless for 14 minutes at the start of that second half and Galway will regret having wasted some good opportunities to push further ahead and create a real chance of knocking the Dubs off their perch.
Galway shot five wides at that juncture and who knows how things would have panned out if they had scored a few of them? They needed to go for Dublin’s jugular when they had them rattled. Instead they took some bad decisions on the ball, hit some wild shots, and handed the initiative back to the home side.
Poor decisions proved costly
Shane Walsh and Shane Maughan will regret taking the wrong option when in good positions at that stage. Walsh was culpable on too many occasions of not doing the right thing in possession. For a player who has buckets of skill and talent, he was turned over far too often and his unwise tendency to take too much out of the ball was costly. He needs to reassess his game and style of play and realise the best players in all sports try to take the right option all the time.
The Dublin minors showed composure and grit to keep a possible football double intact for three weeks time. With the Dublin minor and u-21 hurlers also in All-Irelands facing Galway opposition, it means a possible four All-Ireland titles for the sky blues in the next month. Hopefully Mattie Murphy and his minors will be the first to scuttle that possibility this Sunday.
Dublin’s dual star Ciarán Kilkenny was a real thorn for Galway all through and he had a good support cast from Cormac Costello and Scott Fulham. The Galway defence did their best, led by a brave display from centre-back Conor Cunnimgham. His wing men Cathal Mulryan and Eoin Walsh also had some very good moments, while James Shaughnessy is a far better player than he showed last weekend. Gearoid Canavan and Gearoid Armstrong worked hard and did their best for the cause, while Connor Gleeson had no chance with the goal he conceded and made one outstanding save. Conor Rabbitte was dangerous any time he was fed ball and was Galway’s most potent forward.
Tommie Joyce was proud of his panel after this two-point defeat.
"Everyone had us written off, but there is serious potential in our panel and I knew they'd stand up to Dublin and we were just very unlucky in the finish. The changes at half time worked to a certain extent. We went from four down to three points up and we had chances then to win the game, but we just didn't push on and take our chances," Joyce said.
Hopefully the lessons learnt last Sunday will stand these youngsters in good stead over the coming years.
Galway: C Gleeson, A Nolan, J Shaughnessy, E Murray, E Walsh, C Cunningham, C Mulryan, S Maughan 0-1, G Canavan, S Moran, S Walsh 1-4 (0-4f, 1-0 pen ), P Glynn, G Armstrong, I Burke 0-1, C Rabbitte 0-3. Subs: T Curran for Glynn, S Geoghegan for Armstrong, G Gibbons for Moran (inj ), L Silke Cananvan (inj ).