“I took a chance. Kicking (towards the net) probably didn’t work out for us too well during the game so I said I’d try and palm it in. When I looked at it, I thought I had hit the crossbar.”
Walsh had done just that in the fourth minute when he hit the underside of the bar with a rifling shot. Pearse O’Neill made up for it with a point from the rebound and the same midfielder was on hand to set up Walsh for the goal after seeing his shot rocket off the foot of the post.
After six goal chances were either denied by Manus Breathnach, the metalwork or simply their own making, other teams might have given up the ghost. But not Cork.
Yet they had been slack in this game, their full-forward line starved of possession and their half-back line sucked into the middle of the field leaving their full-back line isolated and under threat. They also left yawning gaps in the centre of their defence, which were capitalised on by Sean Armstrong.
It wasn’t until Walsh was moved to midfield five minutes before the goal, having played in two positions across the 40 and full-forward, and Paddy Kelly was introduced that Cork looked the more composed team.
Paudie Kissane’s physical presence also added plenty at the restarts and when the goal drew the sides level for the sixth and final time in the game, everything had shifted Cork’s way.
For the nine minutes or so of play, they outscored Galway 0-4 to 1-0, Michael Meehan’s goal from a belting free kick a consolation with the second last kick of the game.
O’Neill, impressing in midfield, Daniel Goulding, Ciarán Sheehan and Michael Shields running from deep all found their target into the Hill as Galway tired.
Alan Mulholland acknowledged keeping Cork scoreless in the closing stages was Galway’s target: “I thought we had it there at the end, when we went four or five points up there at 62 minutes. Unfortunately, the goal came at a good time for them and not a good time for us, straight after an attack when we were looking to go three or four up.
“They came back, hit the post, got the rebound and put it in the net. That brought it back to level and was just the one thing we’d hoped to rule out.”
He pointed to the cavalry Cork sent in as being the difference. “When you have a group of All Stars to take off the bench like Paddy Kelly and Donnacha O’Connor and Paul Kerrigan, it helps.
“We always knew that was going to come at us. Our lads had put in a lot of effort during the game and you could see it on their faces. They were beginning to wane, we just needed to hold that cushion but the goal was a killer.
“I don’t think it was a question of us stopping. I’d give the credit to Cork, they were able to push on at the end, they’re still a very good side and giving them a good fight was a very good performance but we’re disappointed because we came here to win the game.”
In the end, Cork had 10 different scorers and while they dominated possession, their use of it was suspect for significant periods of the game.
They registered 11 wides and went 60% of the game (45 minutes from the 75 in total played) without scoring from play.
While the nature of this victory will do plenty for their morale, Galway were afforded far too much space in the forward line. Just like in the first half against Kerry, marking wasn’t close to tight.
Their tactic of using Conor Doherty as a sweeper worked well and Meehan was profiting from the room provided although you felt had he not been beset by those cruel ankle injuries in recent years, he could have gone to town on Cork.
Had Danny Cummins, who began the game well, not been forced off with an injury in the 23rd minute, Cork would have had even more to be worried about.
As expected, the game was open and by the time the sides went in at half-time, Galway leading 0-8 to 0-7, Cork had two goal chances, the second of them an O’Neill shot parried away by Breathnach.
Walsh’s 11th-minute score was their last from play, though, until the 54th minute when Mark Collins struck over a point.
In that period, they relied heavily on Daniel Goulding and Brian Hurley’s frees while Galway ran up a five-point lead, scoring five in as many minutes.
Cork were on the rack but were still creating breaks, Breathnach saving from Collins, Sheehan’s ground kick going just wide and then the excellent Galway goalkeeper snuffing out a Hurley kick.
Collins’ fisted score and Goulding frees brought Cork back into the frame as Conor Counihan sent for the auxiliaries.
They worked but Cork can’t continue to leave themselves so much to do. For sure, Dublin won’t be as forgiving.
Scorers for Cork: D Goulding (0-5, four frees); A Walsh (1-1); P O’Neill, B Hurley (frees), C Sheehan (0-2 each); J Loughrey, D Cahalane (45), J O’Rourke, M Collins, M Shields (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway: M Meehan 1-6 (1-3 frees); S Armstrong (0-4, one free); P Conroy (0-2); D Cummins, C Doherty, M Martin, G Sice (0-1 each).
CORK: A Quirke; M Shields, E Cadogan, T Clancy; D Cahalane, G Canty, J Loughrey; A O’Connor, P O’Neill; J O’Rourke, A Walsh, M Collins; D Goulding, C Sheehan, B Hurley.
Subs for Cork: P Kerrigan for J O’Rourke (44); P Kissane for J Loughrey (47); D O’Connor for B Hurley (53); P Kelly for A O’Connor (58); J O’Sullivan for T Clancy (60).
GALWAY: M Breathnach; D O’Neill, F Hanley, J Duane; S Denvir, G O’Donnell, G Sice; P Conroy, T Flynn; J O’Brien, S Armstrong, C Doherty; M Martin, M Meehan, D Cummins.
Subs for Galway: S Walsh for D Cummins (inj 23); M Farragher for J O’Brien (53); F Ó Curraoin for T Flynn (54); A Varley for M Martin (58).
Referee: D Gough (Meath).