A Leinster senior hurling semi-final, facing a physically-imposing Galway side that was back to near full-strength, their first-choice centre-back (Joey Boland) out through injury, their first-choice full-back (Tomás Brady) forced off in the 11th minute after injuring his knee, centre-forward Ryan O’Dwyer sent off in the 57th minute. And yet still they won, still they imposed themselves physically and mentally on a Galway team that truly disappointed.
From the first minute Dublin were in gear. Paul Ryan drilling a nerveless free from wide right to get them up and running, the same player putting Dublin two points ahead two minutes later.
The returning Joe Canning soon had Galway on the board though, a pointed free, and in the 8th minute, when Brady went over on his knee in a break to the ball, Canning took full advantage. He bore down on Dublin keeper Gary Maguire and blasted to the net, to put them 1-1 to 0-2 ahead.
That was as good as it got for Galway, however. Brady hobbled off a few minutes later, Peter Kelly dropped back from centre-back, Liam Rushe from midfield to the pivot, and from there to the end Dublin just shut up shop.
One more point was all Galway managed to the break, Joe Gantley from play, while Dublin began to rack up the scores with Paul Ryan, the powerful Conal Keaney (3) and busy David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan (2) all getting on the board.
The seven-minute period just before the break was particularly rewarding for the Dubs as they notched five unanswered points to give them a comfortable seven-point lead (0-12 to 1-2) at the break.
“The match was still retrievable,” said Galway manager John McIntyre of the interval deficit. “Teams have come back from seven points down with 10 minutes to go, never mind 35 minutes.”
True, but not on this night – Dublin just weren’t going to be beaten.
“We just couldn’t get a flow going,” McIntyre explained, “We’d get a point, then mightn’t get another for five or six minutes; we had chances of scores but they weren’t taken. Some of our players, it just didn’t happen for them.”
Some? The number of Galway players who performed makes for grim reading for fans of the Tribesmen. David Collins and Tony Óg Regan did their best, Shane Kavanagh was powerful on the wing, Joe Gantley ploughing a lone furrow up front; everyone else? Tied up, crushed in the big blue machine.
As the second-half unfolded and though now playing into a strong breeze, Dublin kept up the pressure, and the points kept coming with Paul Ryan now almost the sole scorer (six points, Alan McCrabbe the only other to register, with a point), but it was the work-rate, the power and numbers in the tackle, that really impressed about the Dubs.
Galway did manage to bring it back to five points after a Gantley goal in the 56th minute followed by an Alan Kerins point. But even in the absence of O’Dwyer, Dublin held out for a fully-deserved victory.
“It was all about winning coming down, it was all about the result,” said a delighted Daly; “There was a lot of stuff written, a lot of stuff spoken, about our bottle; that’s what pleased me most, they didn’t buy into the stuff that was being written. They’re a good bunch of lads, they want to do well; we’ve been in the wilderness so long, but these are the times, to be in Tullamore on a Saturday night, in your 20s, where else would you want to be?”
Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan 0-13 (0-11 frees); C Keaney 0-3; D O’Callaghan 0-2; A McCrabbe 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: J Gantley 1-3; J Canning 1-3 (0-2f); A Kerins 0-1.
Subs for Dublin: S Lambert for Brady (inj. 59); D Plunkett for Carton (59); D Treacy for McCormack (63); M O’Brien for McCrabbe (65); D O’Dwyer for Treacy (inj. 69).
Subs for Galway: A Kerins for Ryan (35); D Barry for Daly (48); D Hynes for Burke (56); A Harte for Hayes (63); J Coen for Callanan (65).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).