A disciplined defensive and counter-attacking display was not quite enough for the home side, who needed Johnny Heaney’s 79th-minute equaliser to force a draw. With wrestling matches breaking out around him as Dublin tried to kill the clock, Barry McHugh’s short free allowed the Killannin man to level the game.
With eight minutes of normal time remaining Dublin had Eoghan O’Gara sent off for an off-the-ball clash with Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh, but Jim Gavin’s side still kicked four points in a row to take the lead in added-time.
The experience of taking on the three-in-a-row All-Ireland winners will stand to Walsh’s side, but he feels this was a game they should have closed out with a five-point interval lead.
“It’s a game we feel we should have won. Having said that, being a point down in injury time and to come back and get a point, we’ll take the draw,” said Walsh.
“It was disciplined, I suppose. The breeze was quite strong down towards the Árus side. a five-point lead at half-time probably was about enough to get the draw but I think we let three late points in and they went a point up but it was good to see the lads fight to the last.”
The big surprise before the game was that Stephen Cluxton did not feature, which meant a first competitive start for Evan Comerford. Jim Gavin was pleased with the display of the inexperienced stopper, though Galway had quite a bit of success in the first half with three of their scores coming directly from Dublin restarts
There was still no sight of Diarmuid Connolly in the Dublin squad but afterwards Gavin denied that the player was no longer involved in his plans.
“At the moment we are giving Diarmuid a rest as we are a few players who didn’t partake today,” said Gavin.
“We have to be mindful of the campaigns they have had in the past and it is just trying to get that balance right. We have ten weeks to go to championship so it is just a question of what is right for those players.”
For a team of Dublin’s class and skill it was a shame to see them revert to spoiling tactics late in the second half. Both teams were at fault when a large row spilled out over the sideline five minutes from time, but after Dublin took the lead three separate brawls erupted with the Dublin players the guilty parties.
Gavin was inclined to stand up for O’Gara and his involvement in the sending-off and he suggested the Galway full-back might have played a role.
“From the distance I’m at, but I just saw him being blocked by the Galway player. The Galway player goes down,” said Gavin.
“Listen, we’re going to have to look, first and foremost have a chat with the Dublin player and then look at the tape and see what happens.”
With a powerful wind behind them in the first half, Galway showed excellent composure to stick in their rigid defensive shape as Dublin prodded and poked in search of fractures.
James McCarthy was the only player to break through in that opening period, but he couldn’t find Dean Rock as the goal yawned. At the other end Barry McHugh from placed balls and Cooke from distance gave Galway a 0-10 to 0-5 lead.
Dublin slowly chipped away at the Galway lead after the break, but a fine Damien Comer point on the run eased the pressure. And after Kilkenny carried Dublin back level and into the lead, Heaney slotted the leveller deep in added-time.
B McHugh (0-5, 3 frees, 1 45); P Cooke, G O’Donnell (0-2 each); S Walsh, A Varley, D Comer, J Heaney (0-1 each).
C Kilkenny (0-5); D Rock (frees), C Costello (frees) (0-2 each); P Andrews, J Cooper, P Small (free), C McHugh (free) (0-1 each).
R Ó Beoláin; D Wynne, S Ó Ceallaigh, E Kerin; G O’Donnell, J Duane, C Sweeney; T Flynn, C Duggan; P Cooke, P Conroy, S Walsh; A Varley, S Armstrong, B McHugh.
E Brannigan for Varley (41), D Comer for Walsh (46), J Heaney for Cooke (50), S Kelly for Armstrong (57), D Kyne for Ó Ceallaigh (76, black card).
E Comerford; M Fitzsimons, P McMahon, D Byrne; E Lowndes, J Small, J Cooper; M MacAuley, J McCarthy; C Reddin, C Kilkenny, P Andrews; C Basquel, D Rock, P Small.
B Fenton for Lowndes (36), C Costello for Rock (48, black card), C McHugh for Reddin (50), E Ó Conghaile for MacAuley (59), E O’Gara for P Small (63), A McGowan for J Small (67).
Joe McQuillan (Cavan)