Galway end Croke Park hoodoo with win over Kildare
Tribesman crowned Division Two champions to end 16-year winless streak at HQ
Kildare’s Fionn Dowling challenges Galway’s Johnny Heaney during the Tribesmen’s Division Two final win. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Galway
Galway 0-18 Kildare 0-16
Usually these division two finals are less about the winning and more about the taking part, only not this time.
Beating Kildare after an unreasonably frantic finish put straight Galway’s losing record in Croke Park which stretched back almost 16 years to their All-Ireland victory of 2001.
No wonder some of the Galway players fell into a celebratory huddle at the finish, their victory both hard and deservedly earned.
It was a complete team performance too, Paul Conroy leading by example in midfield, with a near full range of scorers, substitute Michael Daly closing the deal with two points off the bench, including the sealing score.
Even with both teams already upgraded to top flight football for 2018, Kildare had something to play for too, having failed to beat Galway in 32 years, in league or championship, a league day in February when adopted hero Larry Tompkins scored 1-5. That record will extend another day.
Galway’s winless streak at Croke Park since that 2001 All-Ireland final win over Meath included 10 fruitless visits before today, with one draw, and nine defeats.
Tied up at half-time, on six points each, Galway’s enthusiasm for the game gradually soared as it came to its climax, Johnny Heaney, Shane Walsh and Sean Armstrong all stepping up a gear to get their noses in front, and keeping it there.
Kildare, never more than a couple of points adrift, squandered a few chances late on, and despite appeared to get a grip on a glaringly open game early in the second, eventually bowed to Galway’s enthusiasm.
Indeed Galway began with a level of enthusiasm Kildare found hard to match -looking perfectly comfortable in Croke Park despite their long loss record.
Paul Conroy shot from long range to opening their account, and on eight minutes, a quite dazzling counter-attack involving Sean Armstrong and Gary Sice and finished by Eamonn Brannigan doubled their advantage.
Kelly, moving out to centre forward, promptly made his presence felt with two excellent points in succession, and another Feely free put Kildare in front for the first time on 20 minutes. Kelly finished with five all from play.
Galway then played with a little over enthusiasm, shooting either too soon or too late (finishing the half with eight wides, another shot coming off the upright).
Still they chased hard, Johnny Heaney forcing the first point-blank save of the game, and they deservedly drew level just before the break, Shane Walsh deftly slicing the posts to even it up - 0-6 apiece - and they went for recovery under the Cusack Stand.
Despite edging three points clear early in the second half, Kildare couldn’t sustain their pressure on Galway, who clearly driven by that losing record, finished out at the game accepting nothing less than a win, even as Kildare hunted for a late matching winning goal. It was snuffed out by Galway, and with it that 16 year losing record.
GALWAY: R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Kyne, D Wynne; G O’Donnell (capt) (0-2), M Farragher, L Silke (0-1); P Conroy (0-2), F Ó Curraoin; J Heaney (0-2), E Brannigan (0-1), T Flynn; G Sice (0-1, a free), S Armstrong (0-3, one free), S Walsh (0-3). Subs: M Lundy for Sice (53 mins), G Bradshaw (0-1) for Farragher (55 mins), M Daly (0-2) for Brannigan (58 mins), D Comer for Armstrong (63 mins), I Burke for Walsh (68 mins)
KILDARE: M Donnellan (0-1, a 45); M O’Grady, D Hyland (0-1), O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle (capt), K Cribbin (0-1); K Feely (0-4, three frees), T Moolick (0-1); F Conway (0-1), N Kelly (0-5), P Cribbin; C Healy, F Dowling (0-1), B McCormack. Subs: C McNally (0-1) for P Cribbon (39 mins), D Slattery for McCormack (44 mins, inj), P Kelly for K Cribbin, E Callaghan for Dowling (both 65 mins)
Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary).