Mayo are likely to be the visitors to Salthill on June 11 for the Connacht semi-final and what composition the home side takes on that afternoon is, at this point in time, anyone’s guess.
Their spring report card shows a first win at Croke Park since 2001, a first piece of national silverware since that same year and four victories on the hop. If that wasn’t encouraging enough, the amount of bodies in the shake-up for championship selection is touching two dozen. Considering they looked at 31 players over the course of eight games, that’s a fair return.
Of course, selection headaches are welcome. A good complaint, by all means.
It’s in attack where their options are beginning to stack up. Of the starting six forwards which troubled Kildare in this poor quality contest, all bar Tom Flynn contributed on the scoreboard. And for his part, Flynn made a handful of important grabs around the middle where he spent most of his day’s work.
Michael Daly kicked two from play off the bench, while Michael Lundy, a nailed-on-starter in seasons past, also showed well. 2016 All Star nominee Damien Comer was held until the closing 10 minutes, while Danny Cummins and Barry McHugh, this pair kicked 1-31 between them en-route to the final, saw no action at all. Don’t forget either that the returning Michael Meehan has yet to see game-time.
The Galway bench were to play a major role during the crucial period of this Division 2 decider where the winners landed five without reply to come from 0-14 to 0-11 down to go two clear with eight minutes remaining.
Wing-back Gary O’Donnell and midfielder Paul Conroy kicked the first two scores of this sequence, highlighting how effective their counter-attacking approach was and how purposeful they were in switching from defence to attack. Indeed, Conroy, O’Donnell and left half-back Johnny Heaney finished with two each to their name, while Gareth Bradshaw, introduced a centre-back, also split the posts towards the finish.
Bradshaw was involved in the score that brought the teams level at 0-14 apiece, before substitute Michael Daly and Liam Silke floated over a pair of excellent points to turn the tide in their favour.
A Kevin Feely white flag brought to an end a 10-minute barren spell for Kildare and crucially, they’d add to their tally on only one further occasion before the finish – Tommy Moolick was on target in the third minute of stoppage time. His kick was sandwiched by Bradshaw’s point and Daly’s insurance kick which ensures Galway head into the summer with plenty of momentum on their side.
“Finishing the league strongly with four wins in-a-row is important,” said Walsh.
“The beauty of this competition is that it tests character. The boys never lie down which is great.”
The Tribes’ finish was in stark contrast to a first-half showing where they kicked eight wides, hit the post and also had a Johnny Heaney goal chance kept out by Mark Donnellan.
Conroy, Eamonn Brannigan and Gary Sice (free) shoved them into an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead. But three in response from Niall Kelly, Fergal Conway and a Feely free edged Cian O’Neill’s outfit in front and the teams were level on three occasions thereafter and were tied on 0-6 apiece at the break.
Galway’s wasteful nature continued into the second period as Shane Walsh and Seán Armstrong points were followed by Eamonn Brannigan’s goal chance, with the same player kicking wide in the ensuing passage of play.
And when the Leinstermen outscored their opponents by 0-8 to 0-3 in the subsequent quarter of an hour – included in that was a four-in-a-row run and three from the boot of Niall Kelly – to move three clear, the largest gap that would exist between the sides, Galway’s misfortune at GAA HQ looked set to continue.
That they turned it around suggests their season could, for a second successive summer, stretch to the August Bank Holiday weekend.
S Armstrong (0-1 free), S Walsh (0-3 each); P Conroy, G O’Donnell, J Heaney, M Daly (0-2 each); E Brannigan, G Sice (free), G Bradshaw, L Silke (0-1 each).
K Feely (0-3 frees), N Kelly (0-4 each); F Conway (0-2); M Donnellan (0-1 ’45), K Cribbin, D Hyland T Moolick, F Dowling, C McNally (0-1 each).
R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Kyne, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, M Farragher, L Silke; P Conroy, F Ó Curraoin; J Heaney, E Brannigan, T Flynn; G Sice, S Armstrong, S Walsh.
M Lundy for Sice (54 mins); G Bradshaw for Farragher (56); M Daly for Brannigan (59); D Comer for Armstrong (63); I Burke for Walsh (69).
M Donnellan; M O’Grady, D Hyland, O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, P Cribbin; C Healy, F Dowling, B McCormack.
C McNally for P Cribbin (38); D Slattery for McCormack (43, inj); P Kelly for K Cribbin, E Callaghan for Dowling (both 65);
D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).