Friday 15 December 2017

Galway's stuttering summer finally takes flight

GALWAY 1-11 ARMAGH 0-9

Galway’s Danny Cummins in action against Paul McKeown
Galway’s Danny Cummins in action against Paul McKeown

John Fallon

Is there life in Galway yet? They knocked Armagh out of the championship with a performance that was as unexpected as it was devastating yesterday.

The Tribesmen never trailed and Armagh never really looked like backing up their easy wins over Leitrim and Wicklow as Alan Mulholland's men took control from the start.

This win will instil huge confidence in Galway as they prepare to head for Croke Park next Saturday for a crack at Cork. The only other time Galway and Armagh played in the championship was in 2001. The Tribesmen won that day and then defeated Cork in the next round on their way to the All-Ireland title. Ambition will be a bit more limited this time, but this victory is a huge boost to Galway football.

Any notions that Galway, unimpressive in their qualifier wins over Tipperary and Waterford, would capitulate were quickly dispelled as they raced into a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 10 minutes, thanks to a couple of frees from Michael Meehan and an opening fisted effort from wing-back Johnny Duane.

It took Armagh 12 minutes to get their first score of the game, when Tony Kernan pointed a free and two minutes later Caolan Rafferty hit one from play.

Sean Armstrong and his marker Ciaran McKeever exchanged points to make it 0-4 to 0-3 after 20 minutes but then Galway took over.

Tom Flynn and Paul Conroy were dominating midfield, restricting the amount of ball going into the two-man Armagh full-forward line of Jamie Clarke and last week's hat-trick hero Eugene McVerry.

Conroy floated in a free from 55 metres and Danny Cummins managed to get a fist to it to send it across goal and into the corner after 24 minutes, although there was a hint he was inside the small parallelogram. Michael Martin then kicked two excellent points to push the Tribesmen 1-6 to 0-3 in front.

Armagh manager Paul Grimley responded with a couple of substitutes and one of them, Stefan Campbell, landed a fine effort, after an Aaron Kernan free, to reduce the margin to four points at the break, at 1-6 to 0-5.

Armagh fought back after the restart, with points from Campbell and Ethan Rafferty. Martin responded with his third point from play before Campbell got his third to leave it 1-7 to 0-8 after 49 minutes.

Galway continued to get the breaks in midfield and they restored their four-point lead when Meehan kicked two good frees from the right, won with low balls into the attack.

Armagh just could not create openings and they fell further behind when Conroy burst through from midfield to float over a superb effort and make it 1-10 to 0-8 after 58 minutes.

Wing-back Gary Sice then broke through for Galway but his goalbound shot was deflected over the bar to put two goals between the sides.

Grimley emptied his bench and even McVerry was hauled ashore without registering a score this time.

Galway were full of running to the end as they played down the clock to secure a surprise but deserved victory. They will head to Croke Park next Saturday in fine fettle.

Scorers – Galway: M Meehan 0-4 (4f), M Martin 0-3, D Cummins 1-0, P Conroy, S Armstrong(1f), J Duane, G Sice 0-1 each Armagh: S Campbell 0-3, C McKeever 0-2, T Kernan (1f), A Kernan (1f), E Rafferty, C Rafferty 0-1 each

Galway: M Breathnach; J Duane, F Hanley, D O'Neill; S Denvir, G O'Donnell, G Sice; P Conroy, T Flynn; J O'Brien, S Armstrong, C Doherty; M Martin, M Meehan, D Cummins. Subs: C Forde for O'Neill (43-45 blood), S Walsh for O'Brien (57), F O Curraoin for Armstrong (62), M Farragher for Sice (63-65 blood), A Varley for Meehan (67), M Farragher for Martin (68), M Martin for Conroy (68 blood).

Armagh: P McEvoy; P McKeown, B Donaghy, J Morgan; A Kernan, C McKeever, M Shields; J Lavery, S Harold; C Rafferty, K Dyas, E Rafferty; J Clarke, E McVerry, T Kernan. Subs: S Campbell for C Rafferty (28), K Toner for Harold (33), F Moriarty for McKeown (h-t), A Forker for McVerry (55), S Forker for E Rafferty (62).

Referee: R Hickey (Clare).

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