John O’Mahony readily admitted this after Saturday’s qualifier in Parnell Park, when only Louth’s poor finishing unquestionably prevented a shock. Primarily, Galway owed their victory to a 15th-minute Pádraic Joyce goal, which sustained an erratic challenge until they produced a second goal at the finish.
After the Joyce goal, Galway didn’t score again in the first half, while Louth kicked four wides in the five minutes before the break. And the westerners also went without a score for the last 15 minutes before Noel Meehan finished to the net after Shane McCoy had saved from John Devane. Again, during this period, Louth spurned chances which were to cost them dearly.
“I knew it was going to be a performance like that. The lads did brilliantly to pick themselves up in six days,” O’Mahony said. I’m delighted to be at the stage where we have another chance of redemption. That was all we were looking for. Louth had chances and if they took all their scores they would have put us away. We are only at the stage of giving ourselves a chance of rehabilitation.”
O’Mahony revealed that some of his more senior players shed tears at a team meeting at the beginning of last week. “Anyone who might have thought that the Mayo defeat didn’t hurt is well wide of the mark. We were devastated to lose, but by the time we came back on Wednesday the heads were up. We have seven days to get it to the next stage. If we can, we’ll be competitive. If we play like this in the next game we haven’t a chance in hell. Everyone knows that.”
Scores were level twice in the opening nine minutes and while Galway were to edge ahead shortly afterwards, they found it very difficult to cope with a determined Louth challenge. Their forwards made little progress, operating with a two-man full-forward line while Louth used Aaron Hoey as a sweeper behind the half-back line. Manager Val Andrews explained that the idea was to “keep it tight and put themselves in a position to win.” And he was satisfied that it worked to the stage that they made enough chances to win. Alas, they didn’t take them.
Pádraig Joyce operated at centre-forward, but was rarely prominent. However, his goal was superbly taken and it put Galway 1-5 to 0-2 in front. Louth came back strongly with three points in the next seven minutes. Mark Stanfield was very accurate with his free-taking and JP Rooney, in the left corner, looked threatening. Nicky McDonnell, at left half-forward, was another to show up well.
For Galway, some of the best play came from Michael Donnellan at midfield and, to a lesser extent, Joe Bergin on the left wing. While they worked the ball well out of defence, via midfield, some of their passing was poor and was the cause of good possession being turned over. With Louth hitting their best spell in the second quarter, but wasting chances, Galway led 1-5 to 0-5 at half-time.
O’Mahony reverted to a more orthodox attack for the second half to deal with Louth’s blanket defence, but it didn’t make a great difference for the reason that Michael Meehan and Derek Savage were denied the space to create openings. And Joyce was well policed by Simon Gerard - before moving to full-forward later, where he looked happier.
Gary Fahey and Declan Meehan were more forceful in defence, Donnellan was again to the forefront while Kevin Walsh won some valuable possession. However, Louth’s stubborn resistance all over the field meant that they were never out of contention.
Anything looked possible in the last quarter, but Louth’s finishing was a constant frustration to their followers. And in truth, they hardly deserved to concede that late goal.
“We had chances, but the lads were brave enough to go for them. I’m proud of them,” said Andrews. “They have great character, we have something to work on for the future. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. They have come back from being beaten seven times in a row. To put in a performance like that showed character, bravery and strength,” he added.
* Referee Joe McQuillan impressed me more when I saw him a few weeks ago. He still did well, but wasn’t as sharp.
: Galway: P. Joyce 1-3 (0-3 frees); N. Meehan 1-0; M. Donnellan 0-2; K. Walsh, D. Savage and M. Clancy 0-1 each. Louth: M. Stanfield 0-5 frees; J.P. Rooney 0-2; P. Keenan and N. McDonnell 0-1 each.
: B. O’Donoghue; K. Fitzgerald, G. Fahey, T. Meehan; D. Meehan (capt.), P. Clancy, B. Dooney; M. Donnellan, K. Walsh; J. Bergin, P. Joyce, M. Clancy; D. Savage, M. Meehan, T. Joyce. Subs: N. Meehan for T. Joyce (second half); D. Burke for Dooney (50th); J. Devane for M. Clancy (68th).
: S. McCoy; A. Page, P. Mallon, J. Carr; D. Shevlin, S. Gerard, R. Rooney; D. Devaney, P. Keenan; R. Finnegan, O. McDonnell, N. McDonnell; A. Hoey, M. Stanfield, J.P. Rooney.
Subs: D. Clarke for O. McDonnell (67th); R. Kelly for Stanfield (71st).
: J. McQuillan (Cavan).