O Flatharta relief at Galway lifeline
Everything comes to those who wait. And yesterday, Galway's patience was rewarded when they chalked up their first victory in the Allianz Football League at Armagh's expense to not only gain a fresh infusion of confidence, but retain their slim hopes of remaining in the top bracket next year.
The outcome of next Sunday's daunting mission against unbeaten league finalists Dublin will determine Galway's fate but manager Tomas O Flatharta, under considerable pressure going into yesterday's game, is optimistic that his team can build on their newly acquired cohesion and fluency.
"This was our first real 70 minutes display, but we have to try and take things to the next level now. We are on a learning curve but we have given ourselves a lifeline. The challenge will be to show that we can now achieve consistency. We have players who will be coming back and this win gives us all encouragement," said O Flatharta.
Yet Galway looked doomed to ship yet another defeat when they trailed by 0-4 to nil after just seven minutes; Steven McDonnell having already served notice by then that he was about to prove a handful for their defence by whipping over two of Armagh's points.
But Paddy O'Rourke's side flattered to deceive. Instead, Galway's spirit, cohesion and hunger allied to the subtle experience of Padraic Joyce and the towering input of man of the match Gary Sice, Joe Bergin and Paul Conroy provided the platform for an unexpected coup.
If Joyce represented aristocratic finesse, then the indomitable Sice epitomised the very heartbeat of a Galway that emphatically shed the demons which have plagued them of late. After Armagh's early blitz, Galway suddenly shed their inhibitions and within three minutes they were back on level terms, Finian Hanley drilling over a long-range point before Cormac Bane swept home a penalty after home goalkeeper Philip McEvoy fouled Padraic Joyce.
And when Joyce, not named initially in the starting line-up but who was to prove hugely influential in this unexpected Galway coup, and wing-back Gary O'Donnell fired the westerners into a 1-3 to 0-4 lead, their side acquired a firm foothold on the contest. And with the marauding Sice, Concannon and Joyce on target, the visitors led by 1-9 to 0-7 at the break.
Although substitute Michael O'Rourke, McDonnell -- who scored nine points in all -- and Mackin posted points on the resumption, Armagh's vulnerability at the back was underlined when full-forward Paul Conroy pilfered three long-range points from play to complement a further Joyce score that took Galway into a 1-14 to 0-13 lead.
But it was in the last 10 minutes that Galway really turned up the heat. In a frenetic spell of expansive attacking football, they hit five points without response before a late brace from McDonnell brought a semblance of respectability to the result from Armagh's perspective.
Man of the Match: Gary Sice (Galway)
SCORERS -- Galway: C Bane 1-5 (1-0 pen), P Joyce (1f), P Conroy 0-4 each, G Sice 0-3, G O'Donnell, F Hanley, O Concannon, J Bergin 0-1 each. Armagh: S McDonnell 0-9 (3f), J Clarke, M Mackin 0-3 each, M O'Rourke 0-2, K Dyas 0-1.
Galway -- A Flaherty 7; A Burke 7, C Forde 7, J Duane 7; G O'Donnell 8, G Higgins 7, G Sice 9; J Bergin 8, F Hanley 7; P Joyce 8, O Concannon 6, C Kenny 6; F Breathnach 6, P Conroy 8, C Bane 8. Subs: G Bradshaw 6 for Kenny (44), K Brady 6 for Sice (72).
Armagh -- P McEvoy 6; A Mallon 7, B Donaghy 6, F Moriarty 5; K Dyas 6, C McKeever 6, P Duffy 6; K Toner 6, M Mackin 7; C Vernon 7, C Watters 6, G Swift 5; J Clarke 7, S McDonnell 9, J Murtagh 5. Subs: M O'Rourke 7 for Murtagh, P Hearty 6 for McEvoy (both h-t), A Kernan 6 for Swift (41), J Lavery 6 for Duffy (58), T Kernan 6 for Watters (62) .
Ref -- J McQuillan (Cavan).