By Brendan O’Brien
Dublin sit just 70 minutes away from the county’s first four-in-a-row of All-Ireland senior football titles after an utterly dominant second-half display against the Connacht champions at HQ on Saturday evening.
Jim Gavin’s side demonstrated all the hallmarks that have made them such a force in the modern game. Galway, playing their first semi-final in 17 years, were simply unable to keep pace with them after a gritty 35-minute shift.
The Leinster side now has three weeks to wait before taking a shot at history – their late one, anyhow. It will fall to Monaghan or Tyrone, who meet in Croke Park in the second semi-final on Sunday afternoon, to thwart them.
You’d wish either of them luck there.
The prospects for an engrossing evening this time weren’t looking good when Dublin helped themselves to three points while Galway still fiddled about for their bearings. That all changed with the first goal of the game.
Damien Comer would drift in and out of the full-forward’s traditional bailiwick all day but he was stationed smack bang in front of Stephen Cluxton at the off when Ciaran Duggan found him with a lovely diagonal ball eight minutes in.
Comer still had some job ahead of him, even as the ball winged its way in. Philly McMahon was in attendance and Johnny Cooper shadowing proceedings when Cluxton raced from his goal and found himself beaten by the Galway forward’s raised fist.
The keeper had no business leaving his line and paid heavily for it.
Seconds later and Cluxton’s restart was gobbled up by the enemy but Comer couldn’t clear his gun from the holster and fire home again before two defenders disarmed him. A close shave for Dublin and not their last.
Just two minutes later and they were facing grave danger again with Cooper fouling Comer inside his own area but the penalty from Eamonn Brannigan, though decent and low, was brilliantly batted away by Cluxton in an act of redemption.
Still, the sides were level at that point and Galway continued to track the All-Ireland champions through the rest of the half, even when Dublin responded to the penalty save with a hat-trick of points up the far end.
Galway’s ability to hang on in there was tested again after 27 minutes when Jack McCaffrey tore open a gaping hole down the left of their defence, Niall Scully centred and Con O’Callaghan fisted to the net first time.
It was a beautifully crafted effort but back came Galway yet again, claiming the last two points of the half to reduce the gap, this time to two points. When the break came there was at least some relief and optimism about the fact that we still, had a game.
Or, appeared to.
Dublin weren’t so sure. The second-half produced none of the drama and toing and froing of the first. Just a stream of Dublin scores that stretched the gap more and more as the end approached on the clock and for Galway.
The Connacht champions struggled to lay a finger on the Dubs in that period. Any joy they had on Cluxton’s kick-outs was a mirage at this point, a distant dream of better days. With possession like that on tap, Dublin were able to play at full flow.
Galway were run ragged long before the referee put them out of their misery, Dublin having outscored them 15 points to five in the second 35 before Shane Walsh claimed a lucky goal for the losers in injury-time.
Scorers for Dublin: C O’Callaghan (1-3); D Rock (0-5, 4 frees); P Mannion (0-4); C Costello (0-3, 1 free); C Kilkenny (0-3); K McManamon and B Fenton (both 0-2); P Flynn and B Howard (both 0-1).
Scorers for Galway: S Walsh (1-5, 0-3 frees) D Comer (1-1); I Burke (0-2); J Heaney, T Flynn, M Daly and G O’Donnell (all 0-1).
Dublin: S Cluxton; E Murchin, P McMahon, J Cooper; J Small, C O’Sullivan, J McCaffrey; B Fenton, J McCarthy; N Scully, C Kilkenny, B Howard; D Rock, P Mannion, C O’Callaghan. Subs: M Fitzsimons for O’Sullivan (28); C Costello for Scully (44); K McManamon for Rock (56); MD Macauley for Murchin (57); D Daly for Small (66); P Flynn for McCaffrey (68).
Galway: R Lavelle; D Kyne, SA O Ceallaigh, E Kerin; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, S Kelly; C Duggan, T Flynn; E Brannigan, S Walsh, J Hayes; S Armstrong, D Comer, I Burke. Subs: M Daly for Armstrong (47); P Cooke for Brannigan (50); G O’Donnell for Sweeney (56); A Varley for Heaney (59); K Molloy for Kerins (66); J Duane for Bradshaw (68).
Referee: B Cassidy (Derry).