Galway led by 1-15 to 1-11 with 10 minutes remaining in Pairc Esler yesterday before Down scored six of the last seven points, Paul Devlin’s 45m free with the last kick of the game ensuring the visitors headed west shaking their heads and empty-handed.
“It’s disappointing to leave the points behind you,” said a dejected Walsh.
“On the balance of play, we deserved more, but we didn’t finish off the chances we created. We will learn from it.”
There were huge, gaping holes in the Down defence which Galway exploited up to a point and Fiontain Ó Curraoin’s majestic high fielding gave them plenty of possession to build on.
Patrick Sweeney’s sixth-minute goal was the start of an unanswered 1-4 they scored in nine minutes.
Danny Cummins was a central character in the first half, roasting his marker Ryan Boyle and scoring three early points.
Michael Martin’s accuracy from frees kept the scoreboard ticking over, while Sean Denvir, Garreth Bradshaw and Adrian Varley also chipped over nice points with the wind at their backs.
However, Galway missed a glut of goal chances and should have led by more than 1-10 to 0-7 at half time.
Though Down goalkeeper Stephen Kane made some outstanding saves in both halves, Galway were not ruthless enough in front of goal and they were made to regret that wastefulness when the home side rallied.
Donal O’Hare, Conor Laverty and Mark Poland scored vital points in the second quarter and with the wind at their backs, Down scored 1-2 in eight minutes after the restart, with Donal O’Hare’s goal, after his initial penalty shot had been saved, sparking them into life.
Galway were able to stay ahead with points from Sean Denvir, Adrian Varley and Damien Comer, before the dramatic late flurry of points rescued Down.
A Devlin ‘45’, an O’Hare free and quality points from Laverty, sub Caolan Mooney and Kevin McKernan put Down ahead for the first time since the fifth minute.
If Laverty’s strike from near the stand side was good, then McKernan’s spectacular 55m skyscraper was even better and it put Down ahead in the last minute of normal time.
Galway sub Paul Conroy showed great composure to level the scores in the second minute of injury time, but Cathal Sweeney’s high tackle on Laverty resulted in a 45m free, which Devlin converted to secure a first home league win for Down.
Scorers for Down: D O’Hare 1-5 (3f), P Devlin 0-4 (one ‘45’, 2f), C Laverty 0-3 (1f), M Poland 0-2, R McGarry, K McKernan, C Mooney 0-1 each
Scorers for Galway: M Martin 0-5 (4f), D Cummins 0-4 (2f), P Sweeney 1-0, S Denvir, A Varley 0-2 each, G Bradshaw, D Comer, P Conroy 0-1 each
DOWN: S Kane; R Boyle, L Howard, D Turley; P Devlin, C Garvey, C McGovern; B McArdle, P Turley; R McGarry, K McKernan, D O’Hanlon; M Poland, C Laverty, D O’Hare.
Subs: J Johnston for McArdle (10), A McConville for Garvey (BC, 31), C Mooney for McGarry (47), A Carr for Johnston (56), P Downey for Boyle (60), C Maginn for Poland (70)
GALWAY: M Breathnach; D Kyne, F Hanley, C Sweeney; P Varley, G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell; F Ó Curraoin, E Tierney; S Denvir, P Sweeney, D Comer; M Martin, A Varley, D Cummins Subs: C Ó Ceallaigh for Kyne (BC, 43), P Conroy for Tierney (45), S Breathnach for Cummins (54), E de Hora for Sweeney (64)
Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon)