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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Karl O'Kane

Galway see off Kerry to book final ticket with Mayo

Steely Galway dismissed Kerry at Pearse Stadium to book a Division 1 League final slot against Mayo next weekend - and announce themselves as deadly serious All-Ireland contenders.

In a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland final, where they were level with Kerry after 66 minutes, but starting to wane, there was no fade out here.

They lost by four points in July’s decider when the gun was put to their head, but won by two points in Salthill on Sunday.

The way they controlled the ball in the final two minutes of stoppage time, playing down the clock with a two point lead, showed a level of maturity and game management that hasn’t always been there.

From their well coached attacking play to their ferocious defending without conceding frees, there was a lot to like about Galway as they condemned Kerry to a third successive defeat on the road.

It’s debatable if a Galway team has ever defended as well as this one.

And that’s without two starters from last year’s All-Ireland final - Liam Silke and Kieran Molloy - and another coming off the bench yesterday - Jack Glynn.

It was most un-Kerry like for their forwards - including subs - to only shoot three points from play across the entire game.

But then they only managed 11 scores in their previous two away games - 2-9 in the defeat by Tyrone at Omagh and 1-10 in Mayo

Getting no score off the bench from his five subs though may either well have Jack O’Connor a little concerned about his misfiring side.

But Galway were relentless in their defending throughout, right up to their very last minute.

Kerry’s Tom O’Sullivan and Shane Walsh of Galway (©INPHO/James Crombie)

On the hour mark an immense Peter Cooke turnover on his own 21 metre line led to a typical Sean Kelly break forward and Rob Finnerty pointing on the loop for a three point lead.

A minute later Tony Brosnan was cornered and mugged.

The big pressure plays kept coming.

On 66 minutes Sean Kelly stole forward and floated a wonderfully weighted hand pass to Peter Cooke, who was dragged down by Sean O’Shea when in on goal.

There’s no point having a black if this wasn’t one. O’Shea was yellow carded and Shane Walsh popped over the gimme free for a four point lead.

Bernie Power pulled off a stop one minute into injury time from O’Shea, but it was only a half chance.

Earlier in the move, Killian Spillane had been forced wide to shoot and David Clifford was blocked.

This was typical of Galway on the day and nearly Tyrone-esque wholly committed defending from the home side, who conceded all bar two kickouts to Kerry, and then set up to stop them scoring.

They backed their collective defending and it worked a treat.

Even the way they managed out the final minute and a half of stoppage time, holding onto the ball was impressive, with sub Daniel O’Flaherty taking a big catch from a Galway kickout to relieve the pressure.

The ferocity of Galway’s defending stood out with David Clifford hounded and forced into three first half turnovers in a game where he didn’t score from play.

Clifford was marked by Galway skipper Sean Kelly, who picked him up in last year’s All-Ireland final, when he scored eight points, three from play, two marks and three frees.

The ease with which players like Johnny McGrath, Cathal Sweeney, Sean Fitzgerald, Cian Hernon and John Maher, who hit two first half points from midfield, have fitted into the Galway side is also hugely impressive.

Corofin’s multiple All-Ireland winner, Bernard Power returned in goals for Conor Gleeson.

And Power showed good game management skills to hit Mattherw Tierney three times in a row on the wing from long kickouts when Galway were a little shaky in the second half.

Tierney claimed two catches, one a spectacular one handed effort and broke the other McGrath.

Galway’s ability to carve open a defence, attacking in threes and moving the ball quickly through the hand also stood out.

They’re a seriously well coached and conditioned team who are going to have a major say in this year’s Championship.

Padraic Joyce’s set up with Cathal Sweeney dropping back to pick up Paudie Clifford, freeing up the excellent John Daly to sweep when Kerry attacked.

At the other end, Tadhg Morley went to wing back to mark Peter Cooke with Paul Murphy at centre half back on Johnny Heaney.

Tom O’Sullivan exploited his free man role to go upfield and hit two points from play in the first half, one a trademark effort off the outside of his left foot, as well as hitting a wide.

Kerry struggled early on, but had a couple of great first half goal chances.

Galway’s Seán Fitzgerald and Donal O’Sullivan of Kerry (©INPHO/James Crombie)

Paudie Clifford hesitated on 10 minutes, fumbling the ball, and Power stood up big to make a point blank save.

Tom O’Sullivan had a sniff at goal on 26 minutes after Dylan McHugh had given a poor pass at the other end.

Ruairi Murphy raided forward and David Clifford turned his man to square for O’Sullivan, but he fumbled the ball with goal on and had to settle for a fisted point.

The big play off the half came on 34 minutes when Paul Conroy’s attempt for a point dropped short, but Kerry goalie Shane Murphy collided with a post and dropped in into the net.

Galway also had a goal chance directly from the throw-in saved well by Murphy after Conroy set up Johnny Heaney.

Gavin White’s penetrating runs down the left wing were hurling Galway and he fisted a point in first half stoppage time.

But Galway got to grips with White and Tom O’Sullivan in the second half to run out deserved winners.

Dylan McHugh pulled off a magnificent, rousing full length block on 47 minutes from Paudie Clifford with the net about to bulge in another huge play by Galway.

Even better for the home side, they got Damien Comer and Robert Finnerty back on the pitch after recent injuries and both tagged on crucial points to keep Kerry at arm’s length.

Tribe boss Joyce said: “It was a good win for us to be honest. It’s a long time since Galway have beaten Kerry in league football. We were conscious of that.

“Overall I thought our lads were really good. Very, very strong defensively and just controlled the game I thought, from start to finish.

“Never looked in danger of conceding anything. Really, really mature performance from the lads.

“It’s great that they are building and have got better as the League went on. We did okay. It’s good to win it.

“In the second half, defensively, we were excellent, got our couple of scores and it was great to get time into Damien and Rob, get them back on the pitch.

“It was great that they made a contribution when they came off the bench.

“Danny Flaherty (made a) big contribution as well, catching a kick out when we were under pressure. It was good. Happy enough.

“They had attacks that lasted maybe three or four or five minutes at times.

“It might not look pretty, but we were never in danger of working the ball back and sucking them out or whatever, so it’s great. But we gave up a couple of goal chances.

“Bernie had a great save again at the end and we did that as well last week (against Armagh), Conor (Gleeson).

“So we’ve got to cut those little half chances out that goalies have to make big saves.

“They didn’t panic. They just stayed in control and stayed calm on the ball. Okay we did turn the ball over a little bit more than I would have liked to be honest.”


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