By Paul Keane
At the end of another Newbridge epic involving western opposition, both managers had one thing in common — they didn’t enjoy the game very much.
That’s no great surprise from Cian O’Neill’s point of view as his Kildare side, unlike against Mayo, came up agonisingly short and, in the process, saw their hopes of reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals extinguished.
O’Neill was, in fact, raging as he reckoned the decision to send off full-forward Daniel Flynn was pivotal and labelled it “an absolute disgrace”, lamenting the standard of refereeing generally in Gaelic football.
Here's the incident that led to the red card for Daniel Flynn at St Conleth's Park.July 22, 2018
O’Neill admitted he could even “empathise” with Roscommon manager Kevin McStay who put his hands on an official on Saturday evening, stating that he was “close” to doing something similar yesterday.
It was stranger to hear Galway manager Kevin Walsh say he found it an excruciating experience on the sideline as injury-time points from Sean Kelly and captain Damien Comer sealed another memorable win.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t overly enjoy many games,” said Walsh. “What you enjoy is the development of players, the development of systems, things you put in place to get the best out of the players. I enjoy the training side of it. These matches, at times, aren’t the most enjoyable. I’d like to be up in your (media) seats sometimes.”
Yet it’s hard to imagine anything could replicate the buzz of guiding his county through to a breakthrough last-four place with a game to spare, the Connacht title already tucked away.
All eyes now will be on whether Walsh rests key players and essentially fields a weakened team for their final Super 8 game with Monaghan on Saturday week. If they do it will naturally help Monaghan who are still in the hunt for qualification and, potentially, hurt Kerry.
Walsh merely stated that Galway will be going all out to win that game and to finish the group with a 100% record.
“Every game you go out, even if it’s a game of Tiddlywinks, you don’t want to lose it,” said Walsh. “We’ll be absolutely doing our very, very best. But we’ll have to assess the injury situation; a few guys went off there with ankle problems. We’ll just have to see where we’re at.”
Kildare can’t qualify for the semi-finals regardless of what happens against Kerry in Killarney on Saturday week.
O’Neill believes that while they deserved to lose to Monaghan at Croke Park in phase one, they were dealt a bad hand this time, blasting referee Sean Hurson and his team of officials for the decision to dismiss Flynn with 24 minutes remaining.
“I remained very diplomatic and dignified last week over a couple of things which were very much 50-50,” said O’Neill.
“Once it branches outside 50-50 and moves into 60-40, or 70-30 on some calls, it is really disappointing.
“The marginal calls, you get some of those. I don’t have a problem with that but it wasn’t the referee... for the linesman to actually create what he thinks he saw that leads to a red card, when you consider we were pleading with both linesmen for the full match to watch the pulling and dragging, particularly from our kickouts, I think it is an absolute disgrace, and I mean an absolute disgrace that you can be selective in what you see and choose to act upon. Considering they are all qualified referees, I don’t know where the game is going.
“I can totally empathise with what happened last night with Kevin. If he felt that was the right thing to do, whether it was or it wasn’t, that is obviously where he had gone to in his mind. I was obviously close to that today but I’d rather talk about the players to be honest.”
A thrilling game in front of a capacity Newbridge crowd swung back and forth with Galway edging the first-half and leading 0-11 to 0-10.
They were level five times in that half as Kildare chased a first championship win over Galway since 1926.
Peter Cooke and Tom Flynn made some terrific fetches around midfield for Galway as Kevin Feely moved between number 14 and number 8 for Kildare.
There was an exhibition of long-range point scoring from Kildare’s Paul Cribbin and Neil Flynn.
Michael Daly scored two points for Galway but limped off with a leg injury, meaning he’ll likely sit out the Monaghan game.
Galway dominated the third quarter and Flynn’s dismissal made life easier for them as they surged 0-16 to 0-12 clear.
But Kildare scores from Paddy Brophy and Neil Flynn left just one in it and set up that thrilling finale, which Galway edged.
It was Galway that ultimately showed the guile and street smarts to get the job done.
One of their forwards last year, Danny Cummins, said when the 2017 campaign was over that they needed to improve on their ‘dark arts’ to seriously challenge for top honours.
They appear to have done just that and are a real force to be reckoned with now, possessing one of just two unbeaten records in this year’s championship, along with Dublin.
Scorers for Galway: S. Walsh (0-4, 3 frees); D. Comer (0-3); M. Daly (0-2); J. Heaney, C. Sweeney, P. Cooke, T. Flynn, G. Bradshaw, E. Brannigan, I. Burke, G. O’Donnell, S. Armstrong, S. Kelly (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kildare: N. Flynn (0-5, 3 frees); P. Cribbin (0-3); F. Conway, D. Flynn, P. Brophy (0-2 each); K. Flynn, C. Healy (0-1 each).
GALWAY: R. Lavelle; D. Kyne, S.A. O Ceallaigh, E. Kerin; G. Bradshaw, J. Heaney, C. Sweeney; P. Cooke, T. Flynn; S. Kelly, S. Walsh, M. Daly; I. Burke, D. Comer, E. Brannigan.
Subs: P. Sweeney for Daly (10); S. Armstrong for P. Sweeney (51); G. O’Donnell for Heaney (54); A. Varley for Brannigan (black card) (59); J. Duane for O Ceallaigh (67); F O Curraoin for Flynn (70).
KILDARE: M. Donnellan; P. Kelly, M. O’Grady, D. Hyland; E. Doyle, K. Flynn, J. Byrne; K. Feely, T. Moolick; K. Cribbin, P. Cribbin, F. Conway; N. Flynn, D. Flynn, P. Brophy.
Subs: N. Kelly for Moolick (50); C. Healy for K. Cribbin (53); J. Murray for P. Kelly (59); D. Slattery for Cribbin (62), E. Callaghan for Brophy (black card) (68), F. Dowling for Conway (75).
Referee: S. Hurson (Tyrone).
The game was in the melting pot right up until Sean Kelly and Damien Comer struck injury-time scores. Kildare had reduced a four-point deficit to just one but that finally settled a brilliant game that had more angles than a trigonometry lesson.
Pretenders to Dublin’s throne aren’t exactly queuing up and Galway can now claim to be among their closest challengers.
Tyrone, as Saturday proved, still aren’t up to Dublin’s level, Kerry are struggling just to make the last four and Mayo are long gone.
Galway could yet be the side that pushes them hardest.
Kevin Walsh’s point after yesterday’s game that players respond to their surroundings was well made. After looking flat at times against Kerry a week earlier in Croke Park, Galway buzzed with attacking intent in a packed Newbridge and appeared a different team. A lesson learned for fixture makers perhaps re the future of the Super 8s.
A steward in the main stand took a bad fall before the game began.
Medics were on the case in a matter of seconds, rushing to his aid and he was taken away in an ambulance. He left to the well wishes of the crowd.
Michael Daly went off with a leg injury that Kevin Walsh didn’t shed any light on. The Galway boss did say that a number of players suffered ‘ankle’ problems.
Ciaran Duggan is returning from a wrist problem and could feature in the All-Ireland semi-finals, if not against Monaghan in Phase 3.
Galway have been labelled a crude defensive team but happily engaged in a shoot-out at times, particularly in the first half.
Both sides got men back and countered at pace, with thrilling results.
BEST ON SHOW
Big Tom Flynn pulled off some huge catches to give the visitors a vital platform to attack. He formed a strong partnership with Peter Cooke and both players also contributed a point as Kildare struggled to contain them.
Paul Cribbin and Fergal Conway were excellent for Kildare.
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
Sean Hurson was lenient on a couple of decisions in the first half.
From then on he mostly enraged Kildare supporters, showing the Lilies three yellows, one black and one red card.
Galway merely got one black card in the second half. Kildare may appeal Daniel Flynn’s straight red for striking on the grounds that he was breaking away from a player ‘manhandling’ him.
Galway will have home advantage on Saturday week when they wrap up their Super 8s campaign against Monaghan.
Kildare will travel to Killarney the same day to play Kerry.