Galway fans were fearing a late Down rally, especially after James McCartan’s men had squandered a few goal chances, but Danny Cummins wrapped it all up for the Tribesmen when he blasted to the net two minutes from time. The sub, who finished off a surging run from the impressive Gary Sice, is a grandson of former Down All-Ireland winner Patsy O’Hagan and on a day when these two counties produced an open game that was typical of their legacy, it was fitting that Cummins should grab the crucial score.
This was a game Galway just had to win and that hunger was apparent throughout. Yet, as they held a two points lead in the final quarter, it took a couple of good saves from Thomas Healy to deny Donal O’Hare and Niall Madine, while sub Ryan Johnston sent a great chance across the goalmouth and out for one of their nine wides.
But it would have been rough justice on a Galway side who had an edge throughout and in the end manager Alan Mulholland paid tribute to the way they responded to the losses to Meath, Donegal and Laois.
“We had an extremely tough week. We took a lot of criticism locally here. We were staring relegation in the face if we didn’t come out with a good performance and all I can say is that I’m very proud of the whole group.
“We’ve had to produce a performance that restored a bit of pride in Galway football. The county needed something like that to show that we’re making progress.”
They held the visitors scoreless for the closing 20 minutes and only two Down players managed to score in the contest, with Donal O’Hare hitting six points, four of which came from frees.
He scored all of their opening half total and it took a point from James Kavanagh on the stroke of half-time to give Galway a 0-6 to 0-5 lead.
Man of the match Eddie Hoare doubled the lead just 11 seconds after the restart before Kevin McKernan finally gave O’Hare a hand on the scoring front. His second point after 50 minutes tied the match for the sixth time but they faded and Galway never looked back when Michael Martin was at the end of 14 passes in a move which started on his own goal-line to put the Tribesmen into a lead they never lost.
Kavanagh kicked a great point and after Tom Flynn put three between them five minutes from time, Cummins wrapped it up with the only goal.
Scorers for Galway: E Hoare 0-3; M Martin 0-03 (2f); J Kavanagh 0-2; D Cummins 1-0; S Armstrong 0-1 (1f); G Sice 0-1, P Varley 0-1, T Flynn 0-1.
Scorers for Down: D O’Hare 0-6 (4f), K McKernan 0-2.
GALWAY: T Healy; D O’Neill, F Hanley, J Moore; G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell, P Varley ; F O’Curraoin, T Flynn; G Sice, E Hoare, S Armstrong M Martin, P Conroy, J Kavanagh.
Subs: A Tierney for Hanley (46), K Kelly for D O’Neill (62), D Cummins for M Martin (62), G Higgins for E Hoare (69), D O’Connell for G Sice (69).
DOWN: B McVeigh; D McCartan, B McArdle, O Costello; R Boyle, A Carr, C Garvey; P Turley, P Fitzpatrick; K McKernan, M Poland, C Maginn; D O’Hare, Madine, J Johnston.
Subs: C Laverty for Fitzpatrick (half time), D Rooney for Turley (54), B Coulter for Madine (56), R Johnston for Johnston (56), D O’Hanlon for Garvey (62), C O’Hare for Maginn (66).
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).