Walsh inspires Tribesmen to promotion after lengthy wait
Galway 0-14 Kildare 0-13
Galway manager Kevin Walsh said his side deserved to finally be back in Division 1 after they ended a six-year wait for promotion.
Galway had to hold off Kildare's late surge at Pearse Stadium to claim the win they needed to join the top dogs, and after a convincing campaign, the former All-Ireland winner says his side are ready to challenge the country's best.
They looked nervy at the end as the finishing line approached, but despite conceding five of the last six points, they held on to seal promotion and a league final against the same opposition next Sunday.
"I always say that you are where you deserve to be and I think we are where we deserve to be," said Walsh.
"Today was the final game of seven and a lot of bodies are fairly well battered after 10 weeks.
"This game brought a lot of pressure and there were times where you could probably see that they were playing with a bit of fear.
"Looking back on it, we probably threw the game away in Meath and if we had won that we'd probably have been promoted two games earlier, but that's life. It's good for these boys to feel a bit of pressure and it was there because Kildare were already up.
"But look, over seven games we lost one game by a point and we had one draw and I think we've been consistent enough to make the step."
Shane Walsh was the driving force in Galway's win with three excellent points from centre-forward, but they were mighty relieved to hear the final whistle after Niall Kelly had pulled a very inexperienced Kildare side back to within a point in the closing stages.
Five of the last six scores went to the Lilywhites, who will play Galway in the league final next Sunday at Croke Park, but Walsh said it was a real positive to see his side secure the result with their backs to the wall.
With 14 changes to the team that clinched promotion last week, Kildare boss Cian O'Neill would have come in for some flak had his team not performed, but that wasn't the case.
They trailed by 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time as Barry McHugh and Eamonn Brannigan pointed Galway in the right direction, but with Fionn Dowling inspired at midfield, Kildare were able to stay in touch.
Dowling kicked the opening point for his side and added two more before the interval, but at the other end Sean Armstrong, Walsh and Johnny Heaney also found the target.
In the final quarter, the introduction of Niall Kelly with 20 minutes to go had a huge impact and his two points dragged his team back into contention, but O'Neill was delighted with the effort of his whole squad.
"I think the lads put in a huge shift. That was a strong team we put out there today. Every one of our panel is a Kildare senior footballer. They fought to the end and they wanted to win that match.
"Some of the media and some of the supporters made a lot of that, but we didn't. It is hard to pick a team when every match in Division 2 is so competitive, but we knew whatever team we picked the lads were going to be ready to step up and they did that. They were fantastic."
A free from Gary Sice and a Brannigan point put Galway five points up by the 39th minute, but two points from Walsh in the final quarter - both after powerful runs through the heart of the defence - were needed in the end.
Kelly put a point between the sides in the 71st minute, while a 55-metre free from Kildare goalkeeper Shane McNamara dropped short a minute later as Galway held on.
Scorers - Galway: S Walsh 0-3; B McHugh (2f), G Sice (2 f), S Armstrong, E Brannigan 0-2 each; T Flynn, J Heaney & Paul Conroy 0-1 each. Kildare: F Dowling 0-5; B McCormack, N Kelly, C McNally 0-2 each; E Callaghan, D Hyland 0-1 each.
Galway: R Lavelle 7; C Sweeney 7, D Walsh 7, D Wynne 6; G O'Donnell 7, M Farragher 7, J Heaney 8; P Conroy 7, F Ó Curraoin 6; G Sice 6, S Walsh 8, T Flynn 7; S Armstrong 6, E Brannigan 8, B McHugh 7. Subs: M Lundy 6 for Sice (57), I Burke 6 for McHugh (63), L Silke 6 for Farragher (67).
Kildare: S McNamara 6; M Hyland 6, L Healy 6, D Maguire 6; S Ryan 6, P Kelly 5, E Bolton 5; F Dowling 8, P Connell 5; E Heavey 5, C Hartley 6, C Kavanagh 6; C McNally 7, E Callaghan 7, B McCormack 7. Subs: D Hyland 7 for Kelly (24, black card), K Cribbin 6 for Bolton (40), N Kelly 7 for McCormack (49), P Cribbin 6 for Heavey (52), K Feely 5 for Connell (56, black card), D Slattery 6 for Hartley (63 mins).
Ref - Barry Cassidy (Derry)