Not since 2011 has Galway won an All-Ireland U21 semi-final and the county’s latest batch appeared to have blown their chance at a final spot when allowing Dublin force extra-time 20 seconds after the allotted three minutes of stoppages had been played.
Trailing 0-10 to 0-7 at the break, the young Tribesmen had the backing of a stiff breeze in the second-half and six unanswered points between the 32nd and 44th minute suggested they’d set up a final date against Waterford with a bit to spare.
The excellent Brian Molloy (0-2), Darragh Dolan, Conor Whelan and Thomas Monaghan all found the target as Tony Ward’s troops swept in front for the first time. Playing in their first competitive fixture of the summer, though, Galway failed to push on and white flags from Cian Boland and defenders James Madden and Fionn Ó Riain Broin returned Dublin in front. But for wides from Boland and Andrew Jameson-Murphy, their lead could – and should – have been greater than a solitary point.
Their difficulties in front of goal was to have a significant bearing on the outcome – Joe Fortune’s side clocked 21 wides in total. Conor Whelan, who finished with his arm in a sling and is now a serious doubt for the decider, tied matters at 0-14 apiece and a monstrous Brian Molloy free from inside his own half nudged Galway back in front two minutes from time. Séan Treacy levelled in injury-time and although Thomas’s Monaghan’s 61st minute strike had the look of a match-winner, Cian Mac Gabhan showed admirable composure to stave off defeat.
Eoghan McHugh and Cian Boland traded blows with Éanna Burke and Molloy as the teams turned at half-time in extra-time still deadlocked. Dublin had the wind thereafter, but Galway had the legs. Molloy slotted two long-range frees and a ’65, while many more chances went a begging.
“We are absolutely thrilled with the result. It has been a long time coming for this team,” said Tony Ward.
“Some of these lads had played three years with the team and had never got a win. It is nice to get a win and get the monkey off the back. For a team coming in from the cold for their first championship match, I thought they really fought hard. When it went into extra-time, I was a bit worried, but they showed great character.
” Ward singled out centre-forward Molloy for special praise. “He came back deep in extra-time and won a lot of ball in front of his own goals and then brought it intelligently down the field. When you see that, you think we are not going to be beaten. He hit two brilliant frees in the second-half of extra-time. They were crucial. . He played a captain’s part.”
Dublin manager Joe Fortune, meanwhile, said regret was the over-riding emotion in his dressing-room.
“We spoke an awful lot over the year about when you get to this level, you have to take the opportunities and anybody watching that tonight would see that we had ample opportunity to win it.
“That dressing room is devastated. One of the things we speak about in Dublin is in order to get to that next level, you have to win games like that. You’d think we never did a shooting drill there at times.
“You can’t blame the six-week thing because Galway didn’t have a competitive game. I don’t know what we could have done extra on the line, it just seemed we didn’t win that breaking ball. It’s a huge disappointment to me.”
B Molloy (0-10, 0-5 frees, 0-1 ’65); D Nevin (0-1 sc), T Monaghan (0-3 each); C Whelan, E Burke (0-2 each); D Dolan (0-1).
C Bennett (0-3 frees), R McBride, C Boland (0-3 each); S Treacy (0-2 frees), A Jameson (0-2 each); J Madden, F Ó Riain Broin, C Mac Gabhann, S Barrett, E Conroy, E McHugh (0-1 each).
C Tuohy (Tommy Larkins); C Jennings (Loughrea), D O’Donoghue (Kilnadeema Leitrim), D Cronin (Cappataggle); F Burke (St Thomas’), S Cooney (St Thomas’), S Loftus (Turloughmore); D Dolan (Cappataggle), D Nevin (Cappataggle); K McHugo (Tommy Larkins), B Molloy (Kilnadeema Leitrim), É Burke (St Thomas’); T Monaghan (Craughwell), C Whelan (Kinvara), C Burke (Athenry).
B Concannon (Killimordaly) for McHugo (39 mins); J Mannion (Cappataggle) for C Burke (45); E Brannigan (Rahoon/Newcastle) for Dolan (52); S Linnane (Turloughmore) for Whelan (64, inj); J Grealish (Gort) for Mannion (70); A Morrissey (Liam Mellows) for Monaghan (75).
J Treacy (Na Fianna); J Madden (Ballyboden St Enda’s), E O’Donnell (Whitehall Colmcille), J Bellew (Lucan Sarsfields); F Ó Riain Broin (St Jude’s), S Barrett (Na Fianna), C Mac Gabhann (Kilmacud Crokes); R McBride (St Vincent’s), J Malone (Cuala); C Boland (St Oliver’s Plunkett’s), A Jameson-Murphy (Na Fianna), E Conroy (St Maur’s); S Ó Riain (Setanta), S Treacy (Cuala), C Bennett (Faughs).
P O’Dea (Na Fianna) for Ó Riain (43 mins); C Ó Néill (Ballyboden St Enda’s) for Bennett (45); E McHugh (Na Fianna) for Conroy (55); B Bolger (St Vincent’s) for Ó Riain Broin (61); Ó Riain for Murphy (68); M McCallion (Kilmacud Crokes) for Bolger (70); C Bennett for McBride (72).
D Kirwan (Cork).