Comer lands killer blow to send Armagh packing
Galway 1-12 Armagh 0-12
In the end, they fell over the line.
When a first away win in the qualifiers since 2001 came into sight, Galway hesitated, unsure how to see the thing out.
They were seven points up with 20 minutes to play but they were more used to heartbreak than success in these scenarios.
One-point losses and hard luck stories had been the norm for them in the back door and it continued to haunt them.
And as three chances than could have extended the lead to double figures went a begging, they seemed to be wishing for the final whistle rather than tearing towards the next round.
They had the best of the day. Armagh led just once in the entire afternoon and that was after just 12 minutes. But still Galway ended the contest hanging on.
Damien Comer had grabbed the game's only goal which proved crucial and they used their full quota of luck in that single incident.
Referee David Gough brought a free forward - too far in the opinion of Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney - but Paul Conroy's effort was dropping well short before Comer's fist propelled it to the net.
When Cummins pointed to put the Connacht men seven to the good, it should have been easy for Galway to see it out. But they wouldn't score again.
Kevin Walsh insisted afterwards that it wasn't their game to chase and that Galway had been suckered too many times by leaving themselves open.
"We were hanging on a wee bit but I don't think it was that serious as ye might make out tomorrow in the papers!" Walsh said afterwards.
"For me, when we were six points up Armagh were totally defensive and we didn't need to go probing for points. That's something we have to learn from going forward. We could have sat there with the ball in the centre circle going back and forwards to try and draw them out.
"That comes with experience. It's normal for a young team going so far up that you might go a bit defensive yourself and get caught in two minds. But a one-point win we'd have been happy."
If a mark of his first Championship game in charge had been a new hard edge to Galway, they showed that here again.
For long periods, they bossed Armagh. And when it came to seeing out the game in the final few minutes they took two black cards without hesitation with one leading to a confrontation between McGeeney and Gary Sice. They looked too like a team willing to roll up their sleeves.
Perhaps Danny Cummins exemplified that best. Known as a jinking forward, he forced a line ball he had no right to get near when his side were struggling for any sort of possession.
The Claregalway man also made a fine catch late on to repel a desperate late Armagh attack.
"I thought we played like a very tight bunch," Walsh offered afterwards.
"There were a few balls given away at the end that I wouldn't be happy with, but my players were more than happy to put their tongues out, sprint back, so the spirit is there.
"This is an Armagh team that would have run Donegal close, but were a bit unlucky with three or four goal chances. But it's all about the next round, and we're there."
The first half gave little clue of how things would pan out. Galway had a two-point cushion at the break (0-9 to 0-7) but the sides looked well-matched. It took the visitors 19 minutes to get their first point from play but they looked to have slightly more about them going forward. And they found their groove to kick three of the last four points of the half.
After Comer's goal, it became clear Armagh would need a major of their own that they never looked like getting. They did look to have a strong penalty shout turned down when Jamie Clarke was felled in the area. Kieran McGeeney wouldn't be drawn on the incident.
"You are not allowed to say anything about referees," he said.
And McGeeney was just as reluctant to be drawn on the challenge game incident with Dublin that saw Davey Byrne left with facial injuries.
"There is always a lot said and written when people don't know anything. Nothing has changed there."
Instead, he rued his side's inability to convert scoring opportunities.
"They played well for most of the game. It was a soft goal but what has been killing us for most of the year is we are not getting more than the 12 or 13 scores on the board and I have said it before it is hurting us. We have to be more clinical in front of nets."
Walsh just wants to see Galway's education continue.
"I'd look for another tough draw next, at home, if we can get it. These are the type of games you learn from. And we still have some learning to do."
SCORERS - Galway: D Comer 1-2, P Conroy 0-4 (4f), G Sice 0-3 (2f), P Og O Griofa, D Cummins, L Silke 0-1 each. Armagh: E Rafferty 0-3 (2f), A Forker (1f), M McKenna 0-2 each, M Shields, J Clarke, T Kernan, J Morgan, A Murnin 0-1 each.
Armagh - M McNeice 7; A Mallon 7, C Vernon 6, J Morgan 7; M Murray 7, B Donaghy 6, S Connell 6; A Findon 6, E Rafferty 6; S Campbell 6, A Forker 7, C Rafferty 6; M McKenna 7, A Murnin 6, J Clarke 6. Subs: D McKenna 6 for S Connell, T Kernan 7 for E Rafferty, M Shields 7 for M McKenna (all 52), S Harold 6 for Findon (60).
Galway - B O'Donoghue 6; J Duane 6, F Hanley 6, C Sweeney 7; L Silke 8, G O'Donnell 6, G Bradshaw 6; F O Curraoin 7, T Flynn 8; G Sice 8, P Conroy 7, S Denvir 6; P Og O Griofa 6, D Comer 8, M Lundy 7. Subs: D Cummins 8 for Denvir (h-t), A Varley for O Griofa (66), P Sweeney for Sice (BC, 70), P Varley for C Sweeney (BC, 70).
Ref - D Gough (Meath)
MAN OF THE MATCH
Damien Comer (Galway)
A victory that was built on the back of a strong team performance more than an individual showing but Comer grabbed the game’s crucial score and managed two points out of nothing in the first half. Liam Silke pushed him hard.
Galway picked up two black cards in injury-time as they looked to close out the game, proving yet again the sanction is no deterrent to players when the game is in the balance.
Jamie Clarke’s first-half point from the wrong side for a left-footed kick was superb.
Commentary from Galway Bay FM suggested David Gough had been kind to the visitors, while Armagh had a strong penalty shout turned down
Galway 12 (4 first half)
Armagh 8 (5)
Galway 20 (7 first half)
Armagh 17 (7)
Galway 2 (G Sice, C Sweeney, both 70)
Galway 1 (M Lundy 48)
Galway go into this morning’s
Qualifier draw. Armagh’s year is over.