Galway 0-27 Dublin 0-21
Post-match handshakes will be far from Henry Shefflin’s mind as he tries to prepare Galway for their first silverware under his direction when they take on Kilkenny on Saturday week in the Leinster final at Croke Park.
Top of his concerns are ankle injuries to former captains David Burke and Padraic Mannion and a hamstring issue which Brian Concannon picked up as they maintained their unbeaten run through Leinster with a deserved win over Dublin at Pearse Stadium on Saturday evening.
And while his men always had an edge and were never in trouble against a misfiring and lethargic Dublin side, Shefflin will be the first to appreciate considerable improvement will be required to off his native county, not least as the Cats are still smarting from their one-point defeat to Galway a few weeks ago.
Shefflin said he doesn’t see that clash having much bearing on the Leinster final.
“I don’t think so. I think every game takes on a life of its own. It is a cliche but it is so true. So, I imagine there will be different personnel on the field and everything like that. It is a final but it is another game. Both teams will see how they go and prepare for it and the best team will win thereafter.
“It was always just about qualifying and I think the group stages will be in the past now and it is a one-off match and it’s getting to the phase of knockout championship nearly. A final should be like that,” said Shefflin.
The sides were level eight times in the opening half, but this was no classic. Limerick referee Johnny Murphy awarded 14 frees to Galway and 10 to Dublin in that half and, as result, the crowd of 10,583 saw little fluency or championship intensity.
“Unfortunately, it never really flowed,” added Shefflin. “There were a lot of bodies around the middle third. When you break a line, and you could see Johnny’s hand going up. He was probably trying to play advantage but it never really materialised for either team. So that means it was called back. There was a strong breeze out there and we knew that we had to work very hard. Our pattern of play wasn’t brilliant but I thought our work-rate was extremely high. That was very pleasing.”
Dublin, with only Donal Burke really threatening up front, didn’t use the wind well and were in trouble when they turned around trailing by 0-12 to 0-11.
The free-takers were busy, Conor Cooney shooting eight, Burke hitting four frees for Dublin and three from play. Cooney’s second point saw him pass PJ Molloy’s Galway championship scoring record of 12-116 and he is second now to Joe Canning.
Cooney should have got his 12th championship goal for Galway after 49 minutes but goalkeeper Seán Brennan saved his penalty.
But once Conor Whelan, well held by Eoghan O’Donnell in the opening half, shook off the shackles of the Dublin full back, Galway never looked back with the Kinvara clubman hitting five superb points from play in the second half and that was enough to send Dublin crashing out of the championship by an inferior scoring difference.
It is a disappointing end to Mattie Kenny’s fourth year in charge and the Galway native said it was bad enough not making the Leinster final, without having their season ended in this fashion.
“Not being in the Leinster final is one thing, but we are really disappointed that we went out of the championship. We are on six points, level with Wexford and Kilkenny, and we lose out on score difference. It is massively disappointing.
“The lads inside in the dressingroom, they are really gutted. Coming down here tonight to get a win was always going to be a difficult task because it is very difficult to beat Galway here in Pearse Stadium, but we’d like if we were going back into the All-Ireland series. Unfortunately, it is not for us.”
Galway: É Murphy; P Mannion, Daithí Burke, J Grealish; F Burke (0-2, 0-1 sideline), G McInerney, D Morrissey; David Burke, T Monaghan; C Fahy (0-1), C Cooney (0-13, 0-12 frees), J Cooney (0-2); B Concannon (0-1), C Whelan (0-5), C Mannion (0-3). Subs: J Flynn for Fahy (57 mins), J Coen for Monaghan (60), R Glennon for David Burke (62), T Killeen for P Mannion (67), E Niland for Concannon (69).
Dublin: S Brennan; J Bellew, E O'Donnell, C O'Callaghan; D Gray, P Smyth, A Dunphy; J Madden, C Crummey (0-1); D Burke (0-14, 0-9 frees), R McBride (0-2), C Burke (0-1); F Whitely, E Dillon (0-1), D Sutcliffe (0-1). Subs: R Hayes for Madden (10 mins, blood), Madden for Hayes (10), Hayes for Madden (15), Madden for Dunphy (40), P Crummey (0-1) for Sutcliffe (56), C Currie for Whitely (56), D Ryan for Gray (61).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).