Cathal Sweeney’s goal sees Galway hang on for narrow win over Tyrone

Ciarán Daly and Conn Kilpatrick add late points to close the gap to the minimum but Tyrone cannot overturn the deficit

National Football League Division One: Tyrone 0-12 Galway 1-10

These are already fraught times for Division One managers. Tyrone’s Brian Dooher was quick to dampen the suggestion that his team was now in a relegation battle after three matches.

He had a point but the relief of his Galway counterpart Pádraig Joyce hinted at the truth that two points won at this stage are two points you do not have to find later.

“We are delighted to be going down the road with three points out of six.”

For a team that started the season at a high-embarrassment threshold of getting well beaten at home by Mayo and followed up with a draw in Roscommon, to come north with a stack of injuries to important players, including POTY nominations Damien Comer and Shane Walsh, and win looked like a significant achievement.


It was also a long-odds outcome at half-time when having dominated possession with two-thirds of the ball, they actually trailed by two, 0-4 to 0-6. A great third quarter changed the match and left Tyrone chasing, a race they ultimately lost.

Adding to Joyce’s good humour was the safe return of captain Seán Kelly, who hadn’t featured for eight months with the county.

“He’s our captain; he’s our leader,” his manager succinctly summarised. Symbolically, Kelly came on in the 48th minute and within 60 seconds Galway had scored the game-changing goal. It was two other replacements who created it.

The dynamic Daniel O’Flaherty started the attack down the left flank and Rory Cunningham carried it on. Cathal Sweeney got on the end of the move and was precision personified when placing it beyond Niall Morgan for a 1-6 to 0-8 lead.

Galway had led by two in the first quarter, occasionally finding a through ball to pierce the massed ranks of Tyrone’s defence. Rob Finnerty was the sharp end and got two lovely scores, leveraging passes from Paul Conroy and John Daly into chances that he converted.

The bat signal went up for the home side’s All-Ireland winning captain and go-to man marker, Pádraig Hampsey and he chilled Finnerty’s hot streak. To be fair to the Salthill forward, any serviceable ball stopped getting through as well and the team didn’t score at all in the second quarter.

Their laborious, endlessly recycled attacks wandered from wing to wing and they failed to add to their score by the interval – to the evident displeasure of manager Joyce.

“We didn’t score at all, going forward 10 yards, going back 15. It is not what we are trying to do as a team. Then we had the hammer blow of Paul Conroy getting injured at half-time. I think the lads regrouped well and second half, we got two scores to get back to six-six. We said that at half-time, rather than let them score twice and be eight-four down.”

That second quarter put Tyrone in the driving seat. Niall Morgan, playing his usual outfield cameos, got so far up the pitch that his 28th-minute equalising point was almost a goal opportunity. Galway compounded getting caught when Connor Gleeson dithered over the restart and Tyrone turned over the throw-in for Darragh Canavan to score.

True to the manager’s prescription, Matthew Tierney – whose later substitution was another injury concern for Joyce – and Johnny Heaney, who worked like a Trojan to win ball and hold on to it as well as shooting two invaluable points, tied the match within three minutes of the restart.

John McGrath gave a terrific display, marking Canavan – who was replaced by his brother after their Sigerson heroics midweek – and pushing forward for a point of his own to open up a three-point gap 1-10 to 0-10 in the 68th minute. More or less the Tyrone forward’s last act was to be deftly dispossessed by his marker when a chance presented itself.

Tyrone had chances to pull it out of the fire. A late, breaking move from a turnover threatened catastrophe for Galway but full back Seán Fitzgerald did a fine covering job on Peter Harte to stymie the attack and it fizzled out.

The hard-working Conn Kilpatrick, who had thwarted a potential goal scoring attack earlier, kicked a big mark in the 73rd minute to cut the margin to a minimum, 1-10 to 0-12 but a last-chance attack saw the otherwise impressive Ciarán Daly fail to shoot and opt to offload to Morgan. Referee Joe McQuillan signalled that he had enough and it ended.

Joyce was impressed with his team’s character.

“It’s one thing I never questioned as a manager. They have always showed it – maybe not enough at times. It’s great that they showed it here in Omagh. It’s a hard place to leave with two points, our backs were to the wall let’s call a spade, we knew ourselves it was a must win game for both teams to try to give a bit of a cushion for next week.”

Next week is a home match with clear leaders Derry. Tyrone will welcome Mayo to O’Neill’s Healy Park.

GALWAY: C Gleeson; J McGrath (0-1), S Fitzgerald, S Mulkerrin; D McHugh, J Daly, K Molloy; P Conroy, J Maher (0-1); J Heaney (0-2), M Tierney (0-1), C Sweeney (1-0); R Finnerty (0-4, one free, one mark), C Ó Curraoin, L Ó Congahile.

Subs C Darcy for Ó Curraoin (30 mins), R Cunningham for (half-time), D O’Flaherty (0-1) for Molloy (43 mins), S Kelly for Ó Conghaile (48 mins), N Daly for Tierney (injured, 65 mins)/

TYRONE: N Morgan (0-2, one free); C Devlin (0-1), P Hampsey, A Clarke; C Quinn, M McKernan (0-1), N Devlin; B Kennedy, A Donaghy; C Daly (0-3), C Kilpatrick (0-1), P Harte (0-1); S O’Donnell, D Canavan (0-3, one free), L McGarrity

Subs K McGeary for McGarrity (56 mins), R Canavan for D Canavan (57 mins), M McGleenan for Donaghy (59 mins), C Donnelly for McKernan (73 mins)

Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan)

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Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times