Cork wriggle off the ropes

AN inevitable outcome in the end for a game which promised a twist in the tale for long periods before Galway went the same way as boxer Willie Casey on Saturday night without any ‘big bang’ involved.

The Tribesmen had Cork on the ropes at Pearse Stadium but with Páraic Joyce, Michael Meehan and Sean Armstrong sidelined through injury, they lacked a killer punch to floor the champions.

Instead, Conor Counihan emptied his bench and the holders just wore down the Galway challenge to pull away for a win which gives them a decent shot at making a tilt at retaining their title.

The outcome — after a poor second-half when they only hit 0-4 with the wind — means that Galway will surely be relegated but manager Tomás Ó Flatharta will have been boosted by a great first-half performance.

That spirited display saw Galway produce their traditional game of fast movement with the ball and with converted full-back Finian Hanley and Joe Bergin dominating midfield, the Tribesmen had a platform to build from.

The Galway fans in the crowd of less than 1,500 gave their side a rapturous reception as they went in at the interval leading by 0-9 to 0-7 having played against the wind and having recovered from a poor start to outshoot the All-Ireland champions by 0-8 to 0-2 in the second quarter.

Relegation seems inevitable for Galway with a tough trip to Armagh to come before they host Dublin in their final match, but manager Ó Flatharta is determined to plough on and prepare for the championship.

“We just have to keep working and keep learning, we are doing that all the time.

“We have been trying out a new midfield partnership in the last few weeks, Joe and Finian, they started off in Killarney last week and I thought it was better again today so that is encouraging,” he said.

Ó Flatharta was not getting involved in midweek speculation his future as Galway manager could be up for debate because of the league campaign.

“I am delighted to be working with a group of lads that are very, very committed and are working very hard. There is a great spirit amongst them and are working very hard.

When we have a full squad together we will be a good force then.”

Conor Counihan said suggestions his side were on course to retain their league crown were premature. “I’d be slow to get into that conversation, but it looks like people were thinking about that today. If there is any message from today it is take it one game at a time,” he said.

The Cork boss was not happy with his side’s display but was relieved to come away from Salthill with the victory. “It is all about getting two points, but in terms of the level of performance particularly in the first half we were very disappointed.”

Cork raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 16 minutes and would have been further ahead had full-forward Colm O’Neill, who subsequently went off with a knee injury, not been deprived by a great save from Adrian Faherty.

But then the influence of Hanley and Bergin took over in midfield and Galway took the game to Cork with Cormac Bane and Matthew Clancy turning the screw.

They outscored the champions 0-8 to 0-2 in the second quarter and would have been in a much stronger position had Fiachra Breathnach shot inches wide after a superb through ball from Paul Conroy.

Daniel Goulding, who finished with 0-7, five from play, did most to keep Cork in the hunt. Cork nabbed four points from substitutes in the second-half — Sean Kiely got a brace and James Fitzpatrick and Kevin O’Driscoll got one apiece — as Counihan used his vast squad to telling effect.

They were level within three minutes of the restart thanks to Goulding and the impressive Fitzpatrick but while Conroy — surprisingly withdrawn later — and Hanley restored Galway’s lead, it was all Cork as they shot five points without reply.

Paddy Kelly, for once shaking off Gary Sice, put them a goal to the good with nine minutes remaining before Kevin O’Driscoll’s insurance score.

Scorers for Cork: D Goulding (0-7, 3fs); F Goold (0-2); S Keily (0-2); P Kelly (0-2, 1f); A O’Connor (0-1); K O’Driscoll (0-1); J Fitzpatrick (0-1).

Scorers for Galway: C Bane (0-5, 2fs); M Clancy (0-2); P Conroy (0-2); E Concannon (0-1f); F Breathnach (0-1); F Hanley (0-1); A Flaherty (0-1’45).

Subs for Galway: J Ryan for Conroy, 52; D Blake for Breathnach, 63.

Subs for Cork: D Goold for O’Neill, inj, 16; J Fitzpatrick for Murphy, h-t; S Kiely for O’Sullivan, h-t; K O’Driscoll for O’Neill, 63; C O’Driscoll for Kelly, inj, 70.

Referee: Eddie Kinsella (Laois).

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