Galway 1-15 Dublin 2-16
Another reminder, if we ever again need one, how much crowds are missed at games like this.
Galway welcomed the All-Ireland champions into the heart of their own football country, in what felt like high summer, were chasing them hard down the finishing straight, only fell short at the line - a smashing goal by Dublin replacement Aaron Byrne in added time taking care of the end result.
Any presence of some home support may only have been spiritual, yet may just have made a difference. Galway scored an excellent goal of their own on the hour, thanks to Matthew Tierney, to bring them right back into contention, trailing by just two points as the clock spilled over.
Still Dublin remained unruffled, their second win sending them into one semi-final play-off against Donegal in a fortnight (that venue to be decided by a coin toss), while Galway face a tricky relegation play-off away to Monaghan (that choice of venue not sitting well with Galway manager Pádraic Joyce).
Though disappointed at the end result, Joyce was well pleased with the Galway performance, particularly their willingness and ability to stand up to Dublin throughout the field, some key lapses in concentration aside; the angst over the Monaghan venue is that he feels their punishment for breaking the Covid-19 training ban has now turned into an advantage.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game, we played really well in the first half, tactically the lads were very good,” said Joyce. “We just seemed to lose out way for six or seven minutes in the second half, lost four or five kick outs in a row, and Dublin scored the 1-2. So we were chasing the game for the whole second half, before they got the killer goal, to kill us of.
“But I’m delighted with the attitude, whether Dublin are at top gear or not, that’s the level they’ve got to get to. I thought we gave them a lot to think about, the lads stayed going, never died, and had a bit of pride and passion in the jersey, which is great. The younger players, they all stood up, and as a manager that’s all I can ask of them.”
Dublin’s telling and turning points came in the first seven minutes of the second half, when they held possession without allowing Galway to lay a hand on the ball. In that time alone Cormac Costello helped himself to another fine point (he finished with 0-6), before O’Callaghan finished off the charge on the goal - Niall Scully’s initial shot was saved - with a fist and then boot into the net. He finished with 1-3.
From there Dublin mixed things up a little more and didn’t do a whole lot more than necessary, Peader O Cofaigh Byrne throwing his size around midfield before being taken off (shortly after being booked), Brian Fenton as domineering as ever around him too.
The mostly hazing sunshine wasn't exactly true to the forecast, though wherever Dessie Farrell was watching from - the Dublin manager still sidelined for 12 weeks - the signs for the rest of the summer are good: Dublin made five changes before the start, Micheal Shiel getting a start in goal.
“Yeah, we'd be delighted, it’s a tough place to come,” said Dublin’s Mick Galvin, deputising for Farrell. “And probably weren’t at the greatest place at half time, facing the breeze. But we sorted a few things out, and we’d be very happy with the way the second half went.
“I think the difference this week was we kept the ball for three or four minutes, got the score, then kept it again. Against Kerry we ended up turning the ball over 10 times, that was the lesson thank God we seemed to have learned today. We get the break after this, then it’s Donegal, but games are coming thick and fast. We’ve used the league to get six or seven new starters in, so we’d be quite happy.”
Shane Walsh had an excellent game for Galway, scoring points, frees and 45m frees off both feet to finish with 0-10. Damien Comer didn't start, injuring his thumb against Roscommon last week and he's likely sidelined until the championship.
Galway started out industrious, taking their cautiously attacking game to Dublin with some nice play, Peter Cooke and then Paul Conroy giving them a two-point start; Galway winning their fair share of the match-ups too, Dylan McHugh and Sean Kelly marking up particularly well here.
After starting so well against Kerry, Dublin opened on more muted terms here, Fenton getting them of the mark - with his mark - after 10 minutes. Dublin arrived in with five goals in their first two games, though Galway had the best of the early chances here. On 11 minutes, Sean Kelly and Tierney played a neat-one too in front of Kelly, Tierney's shot saved by Shiel (who started in place of Evan Comerford), before Kelly's rebound was deftly stopped on the line by Davy Byrne.
Dublin levelled up moments later, and it stayed properly close up to the first water break, when Dublin edged ahead for the first time, courtesy of an excellent point form Costello.
Two points in succession from Walsh (a 54m free and one from play) brought them level again, before one more exchange left them level at the break, eight points apiece and reflecting the balance of play. Until in seven minutes Dublin turned it in their favour.
GALWAY: B Power; J Glynn, S Mulkerrin, S Kelly; K Molloy, D McHugh (0-1), L Silke; F O Laoi, P Conroy (0-1); P Kelly, P Cooke (0-1), J Heaney; M Tierney (1-0), S Walsh (0-10, five frees, three 45m) , R Finnerty (0-1).
Subs: E Brannigan for Kelly (45 mins), C Potter for Glynn (48 mins, inj), M O Bairead for O Laoi (54 mins), T Culhane for Finnerty (60 mins), T Flynn for Cooke, J Duane for Molloy (both 67 mins).
DUBLIN: M Shiel; M Fitzsimons, J Cooper, D Byrne; E Murchan, S McMahon, E Lowndes; B Fenton (0-2, one mark), P O'Cofaigh Byrne; N Scully, C Kilkenny (0-3), B Howard; C Basquel (0-2), C O'Callaghan (1-3), C Costello (0-6, one free).
Subs: S Bugler for O’Cofaigh Byrne, R McDaid for McMahon (both 50 mins), D Mullin for Scully (68 mins), A Byrne (1-0) for Basquel (69 mins), T Lahiff for Cooper (73 mins).
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).