Gilroy baffled at Dubs' lack of bite
IF you listened hard enough in Donnycarney on Saturday night you could hear a splintering noise about 30 minutes after throw-in.
It coincided with Fiachra Breathnach pilfering an opportunistic goal off a high ball that left Dublin's new-look full-back line flailing and signalled that the wheels were definitely coming off their league wagon.
If their four-game unbeaten gallop hit a speed bump in Cork, it worryingly lost further momentum in the penultimate round of the league in front of a crestfallen home crowd.
Despite dominating the first 18 minutes, Dublin retreated worryingly back into their shells for the second week in a row, allowing Galway to hit 1-6 without reply to suddenly go from four points down to five points up (1-7 to 0-5) at half-time.
However, led by Cian O'Sullivan, Bernard Brogan and with the introduction of Michael McAuley at midfield, the Dubs subsequently got it together again to claw it back level with 10 minutes left. But despite Galway then being reduced to 14 men, after Declan Meehan received his second yellow card, Dublin let the visitors wrestle back the momentum to close out the game with four unanswered points, three from play.
Far more worrying than suddenly losing two consecutive games to leave their league final hopes in doubt, was what happened, or rather didn't, up front where Dublin's paucity of bodies and ideas once again looked an indictment of their new-found emphasis on getting men behind the ball.
Bernard Brogan, it should be stressed, is totally exonerated. He scored all but three of Dublin's scores in a sublime individual display.
Of the seven frees in his 0-11, he won quite a few himself and gave Finian Hanley an awful roasting.
But even though their attack clearly prospered when they operated an early three-man full-forward line, Dublin retreated on their lead and left just a few men isolated up front which, apparently, baffled manager Pat Gilroy as much as the Blue Army.
"It doesn't make sense," he said frowning. "We were pushing on and all going forward -- and we put on pretty much forwards -- but we did fall back, for whatever reason I don't know."
Injuries may make the Dubs unusually short-handed in attack right now, but Gilroy correctly assessed that those carrying the baton should have made more of their chances.
They raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead, yet, for the second consecutive week, wasted some great goal chances.
Kevin Bonner offloaded too early in the opening minutes and Kevin McManamon could also have done better when forcing a great save from goalkeeper Eoin O Conghaile.
Then, shockingly, Dublin went 21 minutes without a score.
Dropping their midfield and half-forwards back so deep again backfired thanks to their inability, apart from O'Sullivan, to press forward.
Management eventually withdrew three of their forwards and one midfielder (Eamon Fennell) and, arguably, left it very late to bring on Conal Keaney. Their new-look side also don't seem to have grasped the golden rule of a quality blanket defence: don't foul.
"Galway got far too many soft frees in front of goals; that's something we need to look at," Gilroy admitted while also acceding that Dublin took the wrong option with far too many short kick-outs.
In truth, the Tribesmen weren't brilliant themselves, but a follow-up victory to their Tyrone win, especially in Parnell Park where they hadn't won in 20 years, left them grinning from ear to ear.
"I don't know whether the goal put belief into us, but from then on we started winning the battles," a delighted Galway boss Joe Kernan noted. "What pleased me most after Deccie was sent off was the way we controlled the ball and supported each other.
"We played intelligently after weathering the storm and that was the difference; the game could have run away from us but the boys stood up," he added. "It was a good night's work, but we
still have a long way to go."
'Hit 'n hope' seemed Galway's only tactic early on when wing-back Gareth Bradshaw, back for his first game in four, virtually held them together single-handedly.
Defender Kieran Fitzgerald did well in his first start of the season as a late replacement for David Reilly (out with a hamstring injury) and Joe Bergin once again stepped up to the plate when necessary.
Kernan also deserves credit for some early intervention.
Damien Burke, clearly struggling with Alan Hubbard, was quickly pulled and the arrival into midfield of Paul Conroy, their 2007 All-Ireland-minor-winning captain, directly coincided with Galway's turnaround.
Up front, Eoin Concannon scored 0-8 on only his second start and played a key role, especially in their final spurt when Gary Sice and Nicky Joyce also did well.
Conroy sent in the high ball that Breathnach stole off Rory O'Carroll and Paul Conlon and poked to the net to kick-start their first-half revival and send them in 1-7 to 0-5 up at half-time.
Dublin rallied in the third quarter, a period which included a particularly inspirational score from centre-back O'Sullivan, yet even still they kept trying to walk the ball out of their own defence with hand-passes.
Even after Galway went four clear again they persisted with the short kick-outs, a problem exemplified by the sight of corner-forward Kevin McManamon receiving one inside his own 45m in the dying minutes.
Scorers -- Galway: E Concannon 0-8 (0-5f), F Breathnach 1-0, N Joyce 0-3 (0-2f), G Sice 0-2, G Bradshaw 0-1. Dublin: B Brogan 0-11 (0-7f), C O'Sullivan, K Bonner, C Keaney (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Galway -- E O'Conghaile; K Fitzgerald, F Hanley, D Burke; D Meehan, D Blake, G Bradshaw; B Cullinane, N Coleman; G Sice, F Breathnach, J Bergin; E Concannon, N Joyce, M Clancy. Subs: D O'Neill for Burke (17), P Conroy for Cullinane (22), G O'Donnell for Blake, C Healy for Breathnach (61).
Dublin -- S Cluxton; P Conlon, R O'Carroll, P McMahon; H Gill, C O'Sullivan, B Cahill; E Fennell, R McConnell; P Flynn, D Henry, K Bonner; A Hubbard, B Brogan, K McManamon. Subs: M McAuley for Fennell (h-t), B McManamon for Bonner (h-t), C Keaney for Henry (45), B Kelly for Hubbard (67).
Ref -- C Reilly (Meath).