A rollicking Allianz Hurling League Division 1A relegation final in Tullamore yesterday.
Honours even as first Galway came from three points behind heading into injury-time of normal time, then 13-man Dublin came with two late points to bring it to a replay.
Joe Canning was the hero for Galway, scorer of all those three points in a virtuoso second-half performance. Youngster Niall McMorrow was Dublin’s saviour, taking over the placed-ball duties from the substituted Paul Ryan and the red-carded Alan McCrabbe to hit those two late points, the last in the final minute from a nerveless 65.
All in all then, a game to satisfy both sets of supporters, both sets of players, both managers, but hardly a game to satisfy the hurling purist.
Certainly Anthony Daly — Dublin manager — wasn’t impressed: “Some of the decisions were just hard to believe, fellas with the hurley wrapped around them after catching a high ball and ‘play on’.
“Where’s your advantage? I just think somebody needs to sit down and have a look at this thing. Congress is over for this year but my God some of the stuff that was going on out there — I’m not saying he was favouring either team but some of the tackles, if it was in my day anyway it would be...” and here, uncharacteristically, Anthony was momentarily lost for words. “It’s unbelievable,” he continued, “you are seen as if you’re ruining it if you do [blow for frees]. There are frees. Liam Rushe in the first half, how many times consecutively was he fouled?”
Galway counterpart, Anthony Cunningham, didn’t see it quite like that.
“I thought Barry had a good game. As we’ve seen in our five or six league matches now, it’s swings and roundabouts. The game is getting far more physical, it ebbed and flowed — a few frees we thought we might have got early on and didn’t, then later on you might get the rub of the green.”
The fact is though that with players getting bigger, stronger and faster. There is less and less time on the ball, less and less space thus far more bunching than ever before, far more resultant holding fouls. If referees decide to ignore those fouls — as happened in this game — it simply leads to ruck-and-maul situations.
The first half was a dour affair, Dublin marginally ahead at the break, 0-9 to 0-7 but Galway thrice denied goals by the outstanding Gary Maguire.
It was mildly surprising to see Niall Burke on the frees for Galway, given that Joe Canning had passed a late fitness test but the Oranmore youngster has been doing superbly for the Tribesmen so far.
The second half saw a vast improvement in play. Canning, shifted to the 40 just before the break, almost single-handedly dragged Galway into this contest, scoring three points from play after Conor McCormack in the 39th minute had scored Dublin’s first goal.
That run saw Galway tie the game up in the 46th minute but when their rearguard was again breached, this time the 57th minute, the powerful Ross O’Carroll put through by Paul Ryan, it again put Dublin in the driving seat. Back came Galway though, led by Joe. Five points he scored in the closing minutes, set up the sixth with a pass to Damien Hayes.
Less than two minutes into extra-time came the first straight red for Dublin, Ryan O’Dwyer walking after the linesman called the referee’s attention to an off-the-ball incident. Galway took advantage, two more points from Joe edging them ahead but Alan McCrabbe pulled one back for Dublin. Just before half-time, however, Alan lost his cool, saw red for clipping Galway full-back David Forde who had just executed a superb WWE move on the Dublin full-forward, a full over-the-shoulder flip to lay him flat on his back. Again Galway took advantage, Cyril Donnellan with a point to put them two clear at the break (0-24 to 2-16).
Now it was Dublin’s turn to show character, and they did, Danny Sutcliffe getting them on their way before McMorrow’s last-minute heroics. Decent game, hopefully better to come.
Scorers for Dublin: P Ryan 0-9 (8f, 1 65); D Sutcliffe 0-3; N McMorrow 0-3 (1f, 1 65); C McCormack 1-0; R O’Carroll 1-0; J McCaffrey, A McCrabbe (65), S Lambert, D Plunkett, D Treacy, 0-1.
Scorers for Galway: J Canning 0-12 (6f); N Burke 0-5 (4f); C Donnellan 0-2; D Hayes 0-2; D Burke, C Cooney, J Coen, J Glynn, J Regan, 0-1.
DUBLIN: G Maguire; R Trainor, P Kelly, N Corcoran; P Schutte, J Boland, S Durkin; J McCaffrey (c), M Carton; C McCormack, R O’Dwyer, L Rushe; R O’Carroll, D Sutcliffe, P Ryan.
Subs: S Lambert (Trainor 25); D Treacy (O’Dwyer 48); A McCrabbe (Carton 56); O Gough (Schutte 60); N McMorrow (McCormack 65).
Extra-time subs: O’Dwyer (McCaffrey 70); M Quilty (Boland 70); D Plunkett (P Ryan 76); E Dillon (Treacy 84); P Carton (O’Carroll 84).
GALWAY: F Flannery; K Hynes, D Collins, G O’Halloran; N Donoghue, F Moore (c), T Og Regan; D Burke, B Daly; C Cooney, N Burke, C Donnellan; D Glennon, J Canning, D Hayes.
Subs: J Coen (Donoghue 31), I Tannian (Daly 35); J Regan (Glennon 56); P Brehony (Cooney 59); B Burke (N Burke 68). Bloods subs: I Tannian (Canning 28/31); B Burke (Cooney 29/33).
Extra-time subs: P Shiel (Hynes 80+3); J Glynn (B Burke 84); N Burke (D Burke 89).
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved