Cool Dooley rescues Faithful
Shane Dooley has his critics in Offaly but never again can his nerve be questioned.
As his father and manager Joe watched on the sideline, aghast and perplexed at some of the refereeing decisions that had conspired to leave Offaly trailing by a point in injury-time, young Shane calmly stepped up to a free about 68 metres out on the Cusack Stand side of Croke Park knowing that failure to execute it accurately would result in yet another moral victory for his county, one they wouldn't necessarily want.
The 23-year-old has been down this road before, three weeks ago to be precise in Parnell Park when he landed a similar free that carried the burden of abject failure to Antrim with it if he missed. He converted then for extra-time and stood up to the mark once more yesterday to carve out a result that only the bravest of brave Offaly devotees could have anticipated.
Galway will rue their failure to keep possession in the build-up to that Dooley free for a foul on David Franks. Damien Hayes spilled the ball as they broke from defence, not something expected from such an experienced player.
But it was that sort of day for Galway. Too many of their best and most seasoned performers just didn't perform.
Had Dooley not converted that late free to force next weekend's replay, the Tipperary referee Johnny Ryan might not have been afforded such a gentle exit from the field.
Ryan courted controversy with his 43rd-minute dismissal of Offaly substitute Daniel Currams for a head-high challenge on Galway midfielder Damien Burke. In the context of what happened in the Galway/Wexford quarter-final it was consistent, but given some of the other head-high challenges Ryan did not produce cards for (David Kenny on Joe Canning in the first few minutes?), it looked harsh.
When John McIntyre openly admits that his Galway team got most of the breaks from the officials (Ger Farragher's early sideline was clearly wide) Offaly's right to grievance is punctuated. Dooley senior suggested afterwards, tongue in cheek, that his team may have been spoiling the party set out for Kilkenny and Galway in a few weeks' time and that's why decisions didn't necessarily go their way.
Their spirit and dominance in many of the aerial duels, particularly their half-forward line, really did throw a spanner in the works and had Galway recoiling to the drawing-board.
In defence Kenny kept a tight rein on Canning and Derek Morkan was revelation on one of the wings.
But before the forensic team moves in on the league champions, the quality and excitement of this Leinster semi-final should be enjoyed, especially in the wake of Kilkenny's rout of Dublin.
Galway's impact on the Leinster championship has been quite dramatic, serving up the two best games in many, many years. So much for the opposition to their crusade east then.
The rising tide they have created is lifting all boats, a fact Joe Dooley among others will surely acknowledge.
Could Offaly have won with a full complement of players? Probably not.
It took the departure of Currams to stem the flow as Galway, five points down at half-time (3-7 to 0-11) had moved four points clear (2-15 to 3-8) in 11 whirlwind minutes.
Had it continued that way they would have been out of sight but the red card changed the parameters and got the hair standing on Offaly again.
They reeled off the next three points to reduce the gap to one and never again let the gap grow any further than two. Dooley brought them to within a
point as injury-time approached before applying the coup de grace.
For Galway the concerns begin with their defence which suffered difficulty in a majority of positions.
Derek Molloy, Dooley, Joe Bergin and Joe Brady all punched holes in a rearguard that featured five of the six defenders that lined out in the All-Ireland final against Cork five years ago.
Ollie Canning was turned badly by Dooley for two of the goals, first for Joe Brady's strike as he met a rebound on 11 minutes and then for Dooley's own goal eight minutes later as he was left flat-footed by the Tullamore man's swivel back on to his right side.
Beside Canning, Shane Kavanagh was also troubled by the considerable presence of Bergin, who deftly knocked in a third goal on 26 minutes as he latched on to Paul Cleary's booming delivery behind the cover.
With Molloy, Rory Hannify and Brady dominating, Galway rushed John Lee off the bench and by the break they had reasserted some control having led by 0-5 to 0-1 before the goal rush.
Niall Healy also came on and fired over a quick point on the restart and Offaly, now playing into a strong breeze, were instantly feeling the pinch.
Canning, scorer of two effortless second-half sidelines, pounced for Galway's first goal after Cyril Donnellan's path was blocked on 42 minutes and brought parity (1-14 to 3-8) and within a minute Farragher followed up the rebound from Aongus Callanan's strike to put them ahead.
With the impressive midfielder David Burke adding a point, Galway fastened their belts for what looked like a free wheel home before. But there was a sting in the tail for them as the free wheel became a white knuckle ride.
Scorers -- Offaly: S Dooley 1-7 (0-6f), J Bergin 1-2, J Brady 1-1, D Hayden, B Carroll 0-2 each, R Hannify, D Molloy 0-1 each.
Galway: G Farragher (0-2f, 0-1 '65', 0-1 sl), J Canning (0-2 sl, 0-1f), 1-5 each, D Hayes, I Tannian, D Burke 0-2 each, T Og Regan, A Callanan, N Healy 0-1 each.
Offaly -- J Dempsey 7; D Franks 7, D Kenny 7, J Rigney 6; S Egan 7, P Cleary 7, D Morkhan 8; B Murphy 6, D Hayden 7; D Molloy 7, J Brady 7, R Hannify 7; S Dooley 8, J Bergin 8, D Molloy 7. Subs: D Currams 4 for Molloy (h-t), K Brady 6 for Murphy (44), G Healion for Brady (67), O Kelly for Carroll (68).
Galway -- C Callanan 6; D Joyce 6, S Kavanagh 5, O Canning 5; D Barry 5, T Og Regan 8, D Collins 7; G Farragher 7, D Burke 7; D Hayes 6, C Donnellan 5, A Callanan 7; A Harte 5, J Canning 7, I Tannian 7. Subs: J Lee 7 for Barry (30), N Healy 6 for Harte (ht), K Hynes 4 for Donnellan (51), J Gantley for Hynes (67).
Ref -- J Ryan (Tipperary)