McIntyre calls on savaged Tribe to battle on
COMMENTS in Saturday's Irish Independent by three former Galway hurling stars about the county's current status was the talk of Tullamore as supporters gathered at O'Connor Park in the early evening and remained so long into the night after they watched their side deliver a truly dismal performance.
It even drew a reaction from Galway manager John McIntyre who, like the whole of Galway, must have been stunned by the stark analysis from 1980s heroes Conor Hayes, Noel Lane and Brendan Lynskey.
"When their backs are to the wall, they don't come out fighting -- they remain against the wall, they capitulate too easily." -- Hayes.
"You have to ask do they not have the mental toughness or physical ruthlessness, that savage will to win." -- Lane.
"Three or four of the lads on the current team are not entitled to be wearing a maroon and white jersey at all." -- Lynskey.
It was the sort of inflammatory motivation that must have worried Anthony Daly as he took Dublin on yet another new adventure, but he need not have worried. His ever-improving squad flattened Galway with remarkable ease, even surviving relatively comfortably with 14 men for the final 13 minutes after Ryan O'Dwyer had been sent off on a straight red card for a wild pull.
Immediately afterwards, Galway substitute Alan Kerins pointed to cut the deficit to five points, but it was to be their last score. Instead of using the extra man and the wind to really extend Dublin on the home stretch, Galway lurched into wasteful mode, shooting six wides.
Dublin held solid and saw out a memorable evening with a late point from Paul Ryan. It was his 13th point, 11 of which came from frees as he ruthlessly punished Galway's indiscipline.
The win left Dublin looking ahead excitedly to a Leinster final clash with Kilkenny on Sunday week, while Galway take to the treacherous qualifier waters in a very fragile state.
Naturally, McIntyre did his best to talk up the level of commitment Galway will take into the attempt to rescue their season while remaining conscious of the comments from Messrs Hayes, Lane and Lynskey.
"I appreciate that the critics are going to have a field day back home and I heard some of the comments coming off the field about management and players being a disgrace to Galway hurling," he said. "We have to live with that for the next fortnight, but we're going to stay together, stay united and hopefully the players will avail of the opportunity (in the qualifiers) to retrieve their reputations.
"It's the ultimate test of character now for everybody associated with this Galway senior hurling team ... if we don't avail of that opportunity (in the qualifiers) ... the Irish Independent today and the big headline on the front page: are Galway too soft? Well then, maybe we'll just all have to accept that, you know, it's a fair comment, but we still have an opportunity this night fortnight," he said.
"If we don't avail of that opportunity, well then the consequences are severe for both this panel of players and the team management."
No such worries for Daly and Dublin who, after a minor dip against Offaly in the Leinster quarter-final, resumed the service which delivered the Allianz League title with compelling ferocity.
Recovering from the setback of conceding an early goal to Joe Canning who whizzed in from a tight angle before finishing expertly in the seventh minute, they constructed an efficient performance, based on power, relentless endeavour and an intelligence which offered the player in possession a range of options.
In contrast, Galway were edgy and distracted but then they were losing most of the one-on-one battles, leaving them living off scraps. Even the loss of full-back Tomas Brady with a knee injury after 11 minutes didn't disrupt Dublin who redeployed centre-back Peter Kelly to No 3, with Liam Rushe taking over at No 6.
Both moves worked well with Rushe, in particular, delivering an outstanding performance. Dublin outscored Galway by 0-16 to 0-5 between the ninth and 54th minutes, with their five-point burst in the last six minutes of the first half proving especially significant.
It left them 0-12 to 1-2 ahead at half-time, a decent lead after playing with the wind, especially since it was evident that Galway were experiencing difficulties in every line, bar goalkeeper.
Even Canning was struggling to find any rhythm with his striking which is usually so reliable. He shot seven wides (four frees, a '65 and two from open play), mis-hit a simple free early on, mis-directed another later as he tried to pick out a loose colleague and had an attempt for a goal from a free blocked in the 40th minute.
Canning drifted way back into his own half to take some second-half frees when the wiser option might have been to park him in front of the Dublin goal and await the delivery. After all, a fox won't do much damage 100 yards from the hen house. Galway's defensive indiscipline presented them with another major problem as conceding frees to a marksman like Paul Ryan really is the essence of folly.
Conal Keaney's ball-winning ability was always a threat to Galway; Alan McCrabbe popped up all over the place. 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan was lively and inventive, while the tenacity of the defence smothered all of the Galway attack with the exception of Joe Gantley who scored 1-3. Canning hit 1-1 from play, but four of the starting attackers and four of the substitutes failed to score in the match.
Nine scores in 70 minutes on a June evening was a shocking return for Galway who are now facing a massive test of character. They are also facing the distinct possibility that they just aren't good enough at this level.
They continue with four of the defenders who failed as far back as the 2005 All-Ireland final (it would have been five if Ollie Canning hadn't retired), making a mockery of claims that the county is producing fine young talent. Galway were made to look distinctly second-rate on Saturday by a Dublin team that continues to look -- and feel -- very comfortable among the All-Ireland front-runners.
Scorers -- Dublin: P Ryan 0-13 (11f), C Keaney 0-3, D O'Callaghan 0-2, A McCrabbe 0-1. Galway: J Gantley, J Canning (2f) 1-3 each, A Kerins 0-1.
Dublin -- G Maguire 7; N Corcoran 7, T Brady 6, O Gough 8; J McCaffrey 7, P Kelly 8, S Durkin 7; L Rushe 9, C Keaney 8; C McCormack 7, A McCrabbe 7, R O'Dwyer 5; D O'Callaghan 7, P Carton 6, P Ryan 8. Subs: S Lambert 7 for Brady (11), D Plunkett 7 for Carton (59), D Treacy for McCormack (63), M O'Brien for McCrabbe (66), D O'Dwyer for Treacy (69)
Galway -- J Skehill 7; D Joyce 5, D Collins 7, F Moore 6; S Kavanagh 7, T Og Regan 5, A Cullinane 5; D Burke 5, B Daly 5; J Gantley 7, C Donnellan 6, E Ryan 5; D Hayes 5, J Canning 6, A Callanan 5. Subs: A Kerins 6 for Ryan (ht), D Barry 6 for Daly (48), K Hynes 5 for Burke (56), A Harte for Hayes (62), J Coen for Callanan (65).
REF -- M Wadding (Waterford).