After the buzz and excitement of the big win over Derry in round one of the NFL, it was back to reality last Sunday in Pearse Stadium when the Galway footballers were fortunate to get a point from their tie with Louth.
The game ended 1-08 for Alan Mulholland’s charges and 0-11 for the Louth men, who were 4/1 outsiders before the throw-in. Only the most partisan Galway supporter would not acknowledge the home side was very fortunate to avoid a narrow defeat.
Galway started terrifically well and were 1-5 to 0-2 to the good after only 20 minutes and looked to be in cruise mode. The goal came after a Paul Conroy effort rebounded off the upright and the alert and lively Danny Cummins was on hand to slot a three-pointer.
However Galway lost control in the middle third during which time Peter Fitzpatrick’s men hit five points on the trot with Darren Clarke notching two and 2010 All-Star midfielder Paddy Keenan also raising a flag to leave it 1-06 to 0-7 at the break.
It took Galway almost 18 minutes in the second half to raise a flag and their main problem was their inability to win breaking ball. The youthful Thomas Flynn and Fiontain Ó Curraoin were under immense pressure at midfield by the impressive Keenan and Brian Donnelly.
The Louth half forwards and half backs were in control too for a long period and Galway’s inside line of Martin, Joyce and Cummins were being starved of any good ball.
Louth also threw on five subs in the second half and the fresh legs and new faces made a difference. Galway were disappointing in the second half, and only scored two points - one a terrific solo effort by Gareth Bradshaw and one from Paul Conroy.
Conor Doherty, Cormac Bane and Shane Maughan were introduced, but neither made a major impact. The experienced Joe Bergin, who did such a good job on his introduction against Derry, would have been an ideal man to come in and win a few balls had he been available, but he was carrying a groin injury.
Perhaps Niall Coleman or Barry Culliane could have been brought in to try to break Louth’s strangle hold around the middle.
However luck was on Galway’s side in the last quarter. When Louth forward Andy McDowell saw a goal-bound shot deflect off one of his own players, and Brian Donnelly missed three scoreable frees, it gave Galway an opportunity to salvage a point.
It is one that may be important in the coming two months.
Plenty of work to be done
Obviously there is plenty of work to be done before the league recommences in three weeks with an away trip to Westmeath on March 4. One aspect of play that needs to be addressed is ensuring players give the final pass to colleagues who are in a better position to finish a move.
On a number of occasions last weekend, the final ball was not given and players took the wrong option up front. Players have to look up when in possession and, if there is a player free inside, he has to get the leather. How else will the team score goals?
The game with Westmeath will be seriously targeted as a chance to get two points as the Midlanders were destroyed last Sunday by Meath on a score-line of 0-17 to 0-5.
There are four consecutive games in March for Galway – Meath (Rd 4 ) and Tyrone (Rd 5 ), at home and then Monaghan away.
It is crucial Galway collect points in Mullingar as the competition will be more difficult after that. If they can have five points in the bag at that stage before they face the Royals and Mickey Harte’s men, it will do their chances of consolidation in division two the world of good.
Galway: A Faherty; C Forde, F Hanley, K Kelly; G Bradshaw (0-2 ), J Duane, G O’Donnell; T Flynn (0-1 ), F Ó Curraoin; G Sice, P Conroy (0-1 ), M Hehir; M Martin (0-2, 1f );, N Joyce (0-1 ), D Cummins (1-1 ). Subs: C Bane for Conroy, C Doherty for Hehir, S Maughan for Martin.