A neat trick, this, by Galway.
Somehow they managed to rack up 33 points in a Leinster semi-final and do it without ever leaving third gear. No one expected this to be a test but there was something robotic — in a good way — about the manner in which they ticked this box.
Liam Rushe spoke eloquently about this Galway side a few weeks ago, the Dublin player waxing lyrical about their new tactical nous, their physical presence, and the talent of their individuals, whilst pointing out that they have yet to show themselves in a contest of note.
Maybe this is just what the new Galway do. Maybe they can continue to trundle remorselessly through the entire summer swatting aside the challenges of all and sundry.
Unlikely, of course, but they sure do exude an aura of can-do.
Offaly knew that damage limitation was the goal here.
A spectacularly ill-timed challenge game against a Tipperary team angered by their recent troubles on and off the field was played a week before and the result was carnage, with Kevin Ryan’s side leaking goals and points like nobody’s business.
Between that and the knowledge of what Galway could do they decided that a sweeper wasn’t the way to go here. No, they went with two instead, Paddy Murphy and Shane Kinsella jumping into the trench along with their defensive colleagues.
No bother, said Galway.
Up they pushed on the free men and they spent most of the afternoon launching points over from a distance. James Dempsey’s net was threatened maybe once all afternoon but the Offaly keeper must have strained his neck looking over the bar so much.
What else could Offaly do? Very little.
The county’s fall from grace in modern times is a page well thumbed and the sight before throw-in of Brian Whelahan being inducted into the Leinster Hall of Fame in front of the main stand was just another reminder of their straitened circumstances.
Oisin Kelly got them off to a flyer, latching on to a long clearance from his own full-back line and firing into the net via the legs of goalkeeper Colm Callanan’s after only four minutes.
But the breaks that Offaly needed from that moment on never came.
Six times in that first half they managed to engineer threatening manoeuvres on the Galway sticks only for the thrust of their intent to be lost by poor handling. A couple of sniffs at another goal were among them. Costly, costly stuff.
Nothing highlighted their limitations so much as their scorers. Or lack of them.
When Emmet Nolan claimed a point after 55 minutes it was the county’s first score by a player other than Shane Dooley since that opening goal and the vast majority of the Tullamore man’s tally came courtesy of placed balls.
Galway did what they had to and no more. A wise enough strategy given the rising mercury count and the prospect of greater challenges ahead, although it was an attitude that did cater for some sloppiness at times.
Roughly a third of their attempts on goal flew wide or fell short even if there were a bundle of decent individual efforts too. Conor Whelan tried his hand at seven shots and claimed a point with every one, Niall Burke landed five in the second period alone.
Shane Maloney only came on after 20 minutes and managed four.
Nothing fazed them. Certainly not Kelly’s goal to which they responded with four points on the trot inside the next four minutes. The signs were ominous even then and Offaly did well to draw level twice before falling away in the second quarter.
By half-time the lead was 0-16 to 1-6 and the only concern for Galway was the loss of Cathal Mannion to a bad pull from Sean Ryan which earned the Offaly captain a booking.
The second-half was simply the first on repeat.
Seventeen points were added to the collection with Galway claiming ten of the first eleven recorded in that period. The only variation on the day’s theme came 50 minutes in when Maloney lowered his sights and had a goalbound attempt blocked by Dempsey.
Tepid fare soon to be forgotten but it sets up a rare occasion indeed: An eagerly awaited Leinster hurling final. Wexford will bring Davy and the air of romance. Galway, for a change, are to assume the mantle of the establishment.
It suits them on this evidence.
LEINSTER SHC SEMI-FINAL
Galway 0-33 Offaly 1-11
Scorers for Galway:
J Canning (0-7, 6 frees); C Whelan (0-7); N Burke (0-5); S Maloney (0-4); A Harte (0-3); C Mannion, P Mannion and J Coen (all 0-2); C Cooney (0-1).
Scorers for Offaly:
S Dooley (0-9, 6 frees, 1 ‘65’); O Kelly (1-0); E Nolan and L Langton (both 0-1).
C Callanan; J Hanbury, D Burke, A Tuohy; P Mannion, G McInerney, A Harte; J Coen, D Burke; C Mannion, J Canning, C Whelan; N Burke, C Cooney, J Flynn.
S Maloney for C Mannion (20); M Donohue for P Mannion (55); S Loftus for Tuohy (58); E Burke for Canning (61); P Brehony for D Burke (62);
J Dempsey; B Conneely, D Shortt, E Grogan; S Ryan, S Gardiner, D King; P Guinan, E Nolan; P Murphy, J Bergin, S Kinsella; S Cleary, S Dooley, O Kelly.
L Langton for Cleary (42); P Camon for Ryan (52); S Quirke for Guinan (55); D Doughan for Murphy (61); J Mulrooney for Kinsella (64);
J Ryan (Tipperary).
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