Galway 3-13 Clare 1-11: It’s six years since Galway lost their top flight status and while they are now in the driving seat to make a return, manager Kevin Walsh is not getting too excited just yet.
He quickly points out that they face a trip to a wounded Meath side in Navan next Sunday. But with the Corofin contingent returning, including Michael Lundy after a year in the US, there is a dash about Galway this spring.
Not even the late loss of Damien Comer and Danny Cummings knocked them off their stride at Pearse Stadium yesterday.
“Everybody knows that you need a strong panel. Every game so far for us, all of our subs made an impact and that’s crucial as well,” Walsh reflected.
“Having the lads coming back put more pressure on again. But it’s pressure all of the lads want. They want to develop the best panel. But we try to develop each individual as best we can. We will be moving on but there are three games gone and four more to go.”
Galway laid the platform for victory when they led by 2-8 to 0-5 at the interval, having played with the strong wind.
They would have been out of sight had Clare goalkeeper Joe Hayes not produced stunning saves to deny Paul Conroy and Shane Walsh. Earlier, Eamon Brannigan finished low to the net, while Walsh struck five minutes from the break.
“Conditions were very poor and those are the kind of games that you have to eke out results,” added Walsh.
“There was some nice running off the shoulder, which is important. We do create a few chances, took a few and missed a few. But all in all, we probably got the three goals we deserved.”
Galway pushed on early in the second half with efforts from Johnny Heaney and McHugh increasing their lead before Clare, badly missing captain Gary Brennan in midfield, hit back.
Eoin Cleary pointed a free and then Keelan Sexton punished some sloppy defending with a goal after 45 minutes.
Walsh hit back with a point for Galway but Jamie Malone’s third point of the day and a David Tubridy free cut the gap to two goals with 15 minutes remaining.
But that was as close as Clare got in the sides’ first league clash in 22 years. When Galway wing-back Johnny Heaney had his low effort saved by Hayes, centre-back Gareth Bradshaw took his tally to 1-2 when he sidefooted the rebound to the net.
“We left ourselves a bit too much to do,” said Clare boss Colm Collins after their first defeat of the campaign.
“There was some sloppy defending, conceded a couple of easy goals. Galway took them very well, actually. But at the end of the day we got goal chances in the second half and didn’t take ours.
“But overall Galway were the better team and deserved their win,” added Collins, whose side host Cork next Sunday.
Scorers for Galway:
G Bradshaw (1-2); B McHugh (0-5, 4 frees); S Walsh (1-1); E Brannigan (1-0); M Daly, P Conroy, J Heaney, M Lundy, G O’Donnell (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare:
E Cleary (0-4, 3 frees); K Sexton (1-0); J Malone (0-3); D Tubridy (0-2 frees); L Markham, C Russell (0-1 each).
R Lavelle; D Kyne, D Walsh, L Burke; G O’Donnell, G Bradshaw, J Heaney; P Conroy, F O Curraoin; T Flynn, M Daly, E Brannigan; S Walsh, B McHugh, M Lundy.
G Sice for Flynn (60), L Silke for Heaney (65), S Armstrong for Brannigan (67), C Sweeney for Daly (72).
J Hayes; M McMahon, K Hartnett, J Hayes; L Markham, G Kelly, D Ryan; C O’Connor, C Russell; C O’Dea, K Sexton, S Brennan; E Cleary, D Tubridy, J Malone.
S Malone for Brennan (53), D Egan for O’Dea (59), E Collins for Markham (62), G O’Brien for Russell (70), K Malone for Ryan (70).
Fergal Kelly (Longford)
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