Galway get back to winning ways

Tuam Stadium crowd finally given some cheer

Galway’s Michael Martin holds off Down’s Owen Costello in Tuam.  Photograph:  Ray Ryan

Galway’s Michael Martin holds off Down’s Owen Costello in Tuam. Photograph: Ray Ryan


Galway 1-12
Derry 0-8

A dark week for Galway football drew a stirring response from Alan Mulholland’s team in the fabled stadium where time stands still. Relegation still worries Galway but the manner of this win should temporarily silence the more apocalyptic forecasts for the maroon game which flew around the county all week.

Two of the iconic colours in Gaelic football – the maroon of Galway and red and black of Down – brightened a drab afternoon and when substitute Danny Cummins banged home the goal that drew a huge cheer from the anxious home crowd, a Down voice was heard to proclaim: “Did ya know that was Patsy O’Hagan’s grandson?” And it’s was true: the Claregalway forward is a grandson of the late Down great who moved west when his playing days were done.

Wolves from door
Last night they were toasting him in the west. That goal helped to keep the wolves from the door, at least for now.

“We had to win this, had to show pride in the Galway jersey and to be honest I am very proud of the way they reacted to events and all the talk and that they stuck together when it mattered,” said a clearly relieved Alan Mulholland after the game. “But we are not stupid: relegation was staring us in the face and it still is.”

Still, the situation does not look as bleak now. This was not a perfect performance from the home team and Down manager James McCartan shook his head as he watched his forwards create and squander a potential 1-2 when they trailed by 0-10 to 0-8 and the match was up for grabs.

If the gods gave Galway one break, it was that this game was scheduled for Tuam. There are two opinions on Tuam Stadium. One is that it is a wreck of a place badly in need of modernisation.

The alternative – and correct – view is that a preservation order should be slapped on the wooden gates pronto to keep what is the shrine of Galway football completely unchanged – down to the faulty tannoy which prompted the crowd to sing the anthem without musical accompaniment.

In a spring crisis, a young team needed the reassurance of a stadium which hasn’t changed a whole lot since Tull Dunne was custodian of the Galway game. And it was precisely because Galway has such a rich football heritage that their win-less streak was subject to such scrutiny.

Tough week
“It was a tough week,” agreed Alan Mulholland when it was put to him afterwards. “But I have a very good wife.

“Ah look, we had messages from support too from what – I hope – is the silent majority. But the trick now is to go to Louth and put another performance like that together.”

McCartan cut a frustrated figure but knows too well that the league is nothing if not unreliable. But for a strong block after nine minutes by Finian Hanley on Jerome Johnston and a brilliant intervention by Gary Sice on Niall Madine after 53 minutes, Down would have had goals here. Their three second-half points was a measly reflection of their possession.

Under pressure
But Galway were brave under pressure and once they realised that the sky wasn’t about to fall in on them, the confidence seemed to come flooding back. When they move with purpose they can be hard to stop.

It was Sice who cut through a gap in the Down ranks to send Cummins on his way and the Claregalway man had the nerve to go low rather than tap over the point. More boldness will be required if Galway are to avoid a season in Division Three. But a restorative day in Tuam leaves them with the sense of being in control of their destiny again.

GALWAY: T Healy; D O’Neill, F Hanley, J Moore; G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell, P Varley (0-1); F O’Curraoin, T Flynn (0-1); G Sice (0-2, 0-1 free), P Conroy; E Hoare (0-3), S Armstrong (0-1, free); M Martin (0-3, 0-2 frees), J Kavanagh (0-1). Subs: A Tierney for F Hanley (47 mins), K Kelly for P Varley (62 mins), D Cummins (1-0) for M Martin (60 mins), G Higgins for E Hoare (65 mins), D O’Connell for G Sice (69 mins).
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, O Costello; R Boyle, A Carr, C Garvey; P Turley, P Fitzpatrick; K McKernan (0-2), M Poland, C Maginn; D O’Hare (0-5, 0-4 frees), N Madine (0-1), J Johnstone. Subs : C Laverty for P Fitzpatrick (h-t), D Rooney for P Turley (54 mins), B Coulter for N Madine (56 mins), R Johnston for J Johnston (56 mins), D O’Hanlon for J Johstone (63 mins), C O’Hare for C Maginn (64 mins).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).