It resulted in Galway winning yesterday’s Allianz HL Division 1A game against Clare at Pearse Stadium by a point. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile
They closed Pearse Stadium for a few months to carry out significant drainage work and a large tract of the Salthill venue could have been marked out of bounds yesterday as these neighbours crowded the middle of the field in the hope of exploiting space up front.
It worked only to a limited degree and as the rain fell and the wind picked up, it was obvious this wasn’t going to be a day of fast hurling.
Instead, it was a tough struggle with a lot of bunching but when it ended it left Galway in possession of an invaluable win and Clare facing a trip to Cork next Saturday night where the losers will be in serious relegation trouble.
The game did its best to write its own headlines, though. Jason Flynn, who shot six wides in the absence of injured free-takers Joe Canning and Conor Cooney, seemed poised to shoulder some of the blame for a Galway defeat.
Instead, the Tommy Larkins clubman, one of five of last year’s U21 side who started, left the stadium with the praise of manager Anthony Cunningham ringing in his ears. He landed a late ‘65’ to level the match and then showed commendable composure to strike the winner from a free 50 metres out on the right touchline two minutes into stoppage time.
“He’s a brilliant marksman,” said Cunningham. “A young player coming through, a great stickman. He showed great bottle there but he has the talent so it’s great to see it on a stage like this.
“We showed a lot of character with five minutes to go. It looked like a draw or that we were slipping slightly, but we showed that little bit of fight in the finish and that’s what we want to bring into the championship this year.”
There might also have been a dollop of controversy hovering after Galway seemed to slip in a dry ball for the decisive free, after Jack Browne was penalised for lifting the wet one. But that row was quickly diffused by the candour of Clare selector Michael Browne.
“Sure if that was us we would have been trying to do the same thing, so let’s call a spade a spade,” said Browne.
Clare had to make two late changes with former All Stars David McInerney and Tony Kelly both forced to cry off with hamstring injuries and Browne admitted that both are doubtful for next Saturday’s testing trip to play Cork, But he insisted Clare would not panic after one loss.
“It’s a work in progress lads. We’re only in the middle of February yet. We’re bitterly disappointed. We didn’t come up here to lose this game, we came up here to win it.
“But on the day things didn’t quite work out as we had planned and things worked out that little bit better for Galway. But there was only a margin of a point in it at the end. It puts us under a good bit of pressure going to Cork next Saturday evening.
“Cork are obviously going to be really up for that game because they lost their game last night by a point or two I think as well, so that’s the way it’s going to be. The margins will be very, very small. One day you’re lucky and the ball hops the right way for you,” added Browne.
His side made a slow start with the wind and found themselves 0-5 to 0-1 down after just nine minutes. While they rallied, with Kelly’s replacement Bobby Duggan hitting three points, they still trailed by double scores – 0-8 to 0-4 – nine minutes from the break.
But after Colin Ryan pointed another free, a long-range effort from him was flicked to the net by John Conlon and Colm Galvin edged Clare in front for the first time moments later.
However, Galway struck a telling blow just before the break when Glynn caught a free from Andy Smith and set up Cathal Mannion who drilled low to the left corner from a tight angle to leave the Tribesmen 1-9 to 1-8 in front at the break.
Clare got on top after the restart and points from Ryan, Conlon, Shane O’Donnell and Brendan Bugler pushed them a goal in front before Galway rallied.
There was still a goal between them 12 minutes from the end, when a superb solo by Glynn set up Joseph Cooney for a fine goal and the Sarsfields man should have added another moments later but failed to get a clean connection and Patrick Kelly saved.
That set up an exciting finish. The large Clare following thought they had won it with one of the points of the match when Conlon scored from the right wing. But along came Flynn to put his stamp on the match.
Scorers for Galway: Jason Flynn 0-9 (0-6f, 0-1 ‘65); Cathal Mannion 1-1; Josepth Cooney 1-0; Jonathan Glynn 0-2; Gearoid McInerney, Padraig Brehony and James Regan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-6 (0-5f); John Conlon 1-2; Bobby Duggan and Conor McGrath 0-3 each; Colm Galvin, Brendan Bugler and Shane O’Donnell 0-1 each.
Subs for Galway: G Lally for Burke (48), A Harte for Higgins (52), B Molloy for Regan (63), P Killeen for Brehony (66).
Subs for Clare:C McGrath for Reidy (45), A Cunningham for Donnellan (52), S Morey for Cleary (65), C O’Connell for Colin Ryan (68).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).
Galway: C Callanan; J Coen, J Hanbury, R Burke; G McInerney, D Collins, I Tannian; A Smith, J Cooney; P Brehony, J Glynn, D Higgins; J Regan, J Flynn, C Mannion. Clare: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon (capt), J Browne; C Cleary, Conor Ryan, B Bugler; P O’Connor, Colin Ryan; P Donnellan, B Duggan, C Galvin; J Conlon, S O’Donnell, D Reidy.