Yes, Dublin versus Galway should have been played second in yesterday’s double-bill at Croke Park. Yes, both sides were reluctant to play an open game. And yes, the atmosphere was a bit dead at HQ. Ok, it has been said, so can we put the negativity to one side now please?
A decade ago, the Leinster Championship had lost all intensity. The Kilkenny monopoly was not helped by dwindling crowds, and most games were played out at Jones’ Road.
The Leinster Council then adopted a policy to spread matches out around provincial venues. 20,000 punters, similar to the crowd that were in to watch yesterday’s hurling, make a lot more noise in somewhere like Port Laoise, Nowlan Park, or Tullamore, rather than in Croker. Clashes in these venues breathed fire into what was a dying competition.
The addition of Galway, along with the revolution in Dublin, has heralded three separate winners in the last three seasons. Wexford’s renaissance under Liam Dunne only adds to the competition.
There have been several reports in the media today describing yesterday’s hurling with an air of negativity. Perhaps this was just spilling over from the footballing massacre which ensued.
The Tribesmen and Metropolitans clashed with a lot on the line. The winner is virtually guaranteed a spot in the last six of the All-Ireland series, whereas the loser has it all to do through the qualifiers, with a tricky road ahead. It was understandable that things were cagey in the opening exchanges.
However, when things opened up it was quite the match. Those in attendance witnessed the passion on show, both on the field and in the stands. This was championship hurling. Galway started the brighter, and it was Joseph Cooney’s 20th minute goal that finally brought the Dubs to life, who scored seven of the next eight points.
For the most part, Alan Nolan was excellent, justifying his selection ahead of Gary Maguire. But Nolan will be disappointed for his part in Galway’s goal. He was positioned poorly when Cooney struck the ball.
Not for the first time, Joe Canning was kept quiet by Peter Kelly, so much so that the Portumna man was moved out the field. However, Kelly limped off before half-time, and Ger Cunningham will be monitoring the Lucan Sarsfields man’s fitness this week ahead of the replay. As a result, Canning enjoyed a stronger second half back at full-forward.
If Canning struggled, his corner forwards most definitely did not. Dublin found it difficult to cope with the pace of Cathal Mannion and Jason Flynn, who turned their markers on several occasions. Cyril Donnellan’s return added spice to the Galway attack too.
Much has been made of Dublin’s defence, but looking at Galway’s scores, most points came from far out, near the sidelines. It was efficient defending for the most part, but they will have to tighten up to reduce the amount of goal chances they gifted to Galway; the majority stemming from simple errors.
Iarla Tannion was perhaps the standout performer for Galway, keeping Liam Rushe quiet in the first half. Mark Schutte and Danny Sutcliffe were the tormenters in chief, and when Rushe began to win ball after the break, Dublin began to dominate.
To their credit, Galway rallied, and fought back to earn a draw. David Treacy missed an easy free late on, but cannot be faulted, having put in a flawless performance up to that point from placed balls.
Cliché or not, it was a game neither side deserved to lose. Galway know where they can improve next week; convert their goal chances, and bring Joe Canning into the game.
Dublin’s problems may be more deeply rooted. Barring a tame effort from Colm Cronin, they did not threaten the Galway goal. This was perhaps down to Dotsy O’Callaghan’s quiet display. The corner forward may be more orientated to moving towards the goal than his younger colleagues up front, and will be hoping for a stronger showing on Saturday. But a lack of goals has been a common theme for Dublin in recent seasons, and this may be a worry for Ger Cunningham.
Ok, Dublin and Galway both have areas to improve upon, and the atmosphere was far from ideal, but it was a tough championship game with high stakes. Roll on Tullamore next Saturday.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.