Galway’s tortuous search for a balance between defensive security and offensive potency took a painful hit as they missed out on a place in the Division One league final.
Yesterday at Healy Park it turned full circle for the Tribesmen.
Lethal in front of the posts in the first half, when they led Tyrone a merry dance, hitting 1-11, they drew a blank when it came to their specialist subject: Defending.
A series of disastrous malfunctions saw the Tribesmen concede three goals — and it could have been worse for Kevin Walsh’s side as they saw a seven-point lead turn to a seven-point loss.
Tyrone, with a faint hope of scraping through to the league decider themselves, drove home the advantage with the wind in their backs in the second period to stretch their unbeaten run to five games. The recent form of last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists will be a source of optimism for manager Mickey Harte.
“It’s a lost opportunity to get to the league final,” said Galway manager Walsh.
“That wasn’t one of our goals at the start but when you give yourself an opportunity it’s a bit disappointing not to fulfil it. We didn’t play to our potential for the first 10 or 15 minutes of the second half. Losing a few breaking balls at the start put us under pressure and then discipline cost us a bit along with some silly mistakes.
“There is loads to learn after that. When the lads sit down to watch it, there were a few errors in the second half and if you did those in the Championship, you are in trouble.
“It’s important to get a game like this, put a bit of pressure on. A dead rubber wasn’t the game to have. While it is disappointing, we have to take the lessons.”
Mickey Harte declared himself satisfied with the quality of his side’s recovery after picking up just one point from the opening three league games.
“After the first three games things didn’t look pretty and we didn’t think that was reflective of how good this team can be. The next four games after that prove that we were right to think that there is something good in this team,” he said.
“They couldn’t be in the All-Ireland final a few short months ago and be as poor as some people would have suggested after three games. We always felt we were better than that and we were very pleased with the last four games.”
The gale blew strongly in the backs of the Connacht men as they took the game to Tyrone with Shane Walsh in imperious mood, kicking fine scores from play and frees.
Danny Cummins rose high to punch Antaine Ó Laoi’s delivery to the net midway through the half, but thanks to Mattie Donnelly, Cathal McShane, and Kieran McGeary, the Red Hands were just two points adrift coming close to the break.
But Galway pushed up on Niall Morgan’s kick-outs and reaped a rich harvest, out-scoring their opponents by six points to one in those closing stages to turn around with a 1-11 to 0-7 advantage.
Within 12 minutes of the restart, Tyrone were in front. Sean Andy Ó Ceallaigh fouled Cathal McShane and Peter Harte slotted home the resulting penalty.
Another serious faux pas gifted Mattie Donnelly a second goal as he first-timed, soccer-style, to an empty net from 25m after Ó Ceallaigh attempted a back-pass to Ruairi Lavelle without checking to see that the ’keeper had strayed far from his goal line.
Kieran McGeary snuffed out the threat of Walsh, and Galway managed just three second half scores.
Their cause wasn’t helped by the fact that they had to play the final 20 minutes with 14 men, with Eoghan Kerin’s return from the sin-bin coinciding with Gary O’Donnell’s dismissal on a second booking.
McShane, fast becoming one of the most effective target men in the game, finished with 0-4, his strike partner Mattie Donnelly hitting 1-4 from play, and the job was completed when another defensive mishap gave substitute Conall McCann an easy finish for a third Tyrone goal in stoppage time.
Scorers for Tyrone: M Donnelly 1-4, P Harte 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-2f), C McCann 1-0, C McShane 0-4 (2f, 1 mark), M Cassidy 0-2, K McGeary, D McCurry 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: D Cummins 1-0, S Walsh 0-6 (4f), J Heaney 0-4, M Daly 0-2, G Bradshaw, A O Laoi (f) 0-1 each.
TYRONE: N Morgan; M Cassidy, R McNamee, HP McGeary; C Meyler, P Hampsey, B McDonnell; C Cavanagh, R Donnelly; P Harte, N Sludden, K McGeary; D McClure, C McShane, M Donnelly.
Subs: K Coney for McDonnell (42), M McKernan for HP McGeary (42), D McCurry for Sludden (63), C McCann for R Donnelly (68).
GALWAY: R Lavelle; E Kerin, SA O Ceallaigh, D Wynne; G O’Donnell, J Daly, G Bradshaw; T Flynn, C Duggan; F O Laoi, S Walsh, J Heaney; D Cummins, M Daly, A O Laoi.
Subs: C D’Arcy for Duggan (h-t), S Kelly for F O Laoi (42), E Brannigan for Cummins (56), C Molloy for Bradshaw (65).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).