Dramatic late revival by Down earns them a point
A DRAMATIC comeback by 14 man Down on the county's first visit to Tuam Stadium wasn't enough to stop them slipping off the top of the Division Three but it did save a point and leave them well placed for promotion. Shorty Treanor's 60th-minute free tied the game and completed a fourth quarter revival which left Galway the more disappointed team.
The match began in perfect conditions and gradually held the attention of the attendance of 1,000. It ended as an enjoyable match of respectable quality.
Galway's performance belied their lowly status in the division although the result leaves them as outside candidates for what would be a mortifying drop to the Fourth Division. They overcame an uncertain start, during which Down looked likely to crush them, and came back to lead 0-10 to 0-6 at the end of the third quarter.
Their failure to put away the visitors caused Galway player manager Val Daly some frustration but he was relieved to have taken at least something out of the afternoon. "Sometimes it's hard when you've the man advantage. Players get confused over who's picking up who."
There was certainly some defensive lassitude when Down launched their late assault but inaccuracy in taking some good chances was as much at the heart of the failure to win.
Daly substituted himself when the match looked nicely in Galway's grasp. He had been feeling a bit tired in his first NFL match in a year but, in retrospect, the move might have been unfortunate.
His ability to take a score might have prevented some of the late chances going to waste. Furthermore, Niall Finnegan who had been the most troublesome of Galway's forwards, also seemed to suffer after Daly's departure.
Down took their late chances well and could have won the match had it gone on longer. Galway can also be grateful to goalkeeper Pat Comer who recovered from a jittery display with Connacht the week before to make some outstanding clearances and saves, including one from Jarlath Austin with only a minute left.
It was Comer who turned the first half in the 23rd minute by making a marvellous save from Ciaran McCabe when Galway were Just edging their way back into the match. Instead, Galway went on to establish a half time lead which had looked unlikely in the early stages when Down were moving well.
Ross Carr's strength and hard work and Treanor's play making were creating opportunities for Mickey Linden and a lively Gerard Deegan who caused John Kilraine to be replaced by Alan Mulholland in the 19th minute and thereafter was more subdued.
McCabe, at full forward, was also making an impact and Galway were in danger of being over run. Slowly they came back into contention and their own forwards showed nice touches as the scores began to come.
Finnegan was the most consistent problem for Down but John Donnellan's bulk posed awkward questions for Gary Mason who was making a rare appearance at full back. Declan Meehan was uncomfortable in the corner where his natural inclination to run was frustrated.
One abiding fault in the attack was a lack of vision which saw good runs into space frequently going unexploited by the man in possession.
At the end of the first half, Down's centre back Sean Ward was sent to the line for an off the ball foul, although Down were very annoyed by the decision and felt that the apparently aggrieved Galway player had dived - an indulgence which cost John Donnellan a talking to from the referee in the second-half.
Galway's second-quarter surge would have taken them further ahead but for some excellent finishing by Linden who ended the half with three fine points from play. Instead, they led by only a point at the interval, 0-7 to 0-6.
They started the second-half briskly, with John Donnellan barreling through for a point within three minutes. The match began to flow in Galway's direction and Damien Mitchell, who had been slow to reproduce his Railway Cup heroics in the unfamiliar setting of centre field, began to pull down a few balls and points followed from Finnegan and Daly.
With 10 minutes left, the score was 0-10 to 0-6. It was corner back Finbar Caulfield who started the recovery by popping up in the attack for a point. Within three minutes, the margin was down to the minimum after Treanor, with a free, and McCabe, finishing off a prolonged assault on the Galway goal, kicked points. There was an air of inevitability about the equaliser which Treanor kicked from a free.