Galway collapse as direct route reaps reward for Tyrone again
Tyrone 3-15 Galway 1-14
It's a statistic that was sure to have chilled Kevin Walsh on the journey home from Omagh last night after the investment of time and effort put into constructing such a solid defensive structure over the last two years.
In their previous 14-and-a-half league games, including last year's final against Dublin, they had conceded just three goals. That amounts to more than 1,050 minutes when added time is factored in.
But here they matched that in just 35 minutes of action as Tyrone came from seven points down at the break to win by seven, falling just short of a place in a league final.
Mickey Harte will take that, especially after the start they had with just one point from their opening three games.
But four wins in succession should have them bouncing into the Ulster Championship with their focus on hitting Cathal McShane with direct and often diagonal ball, so effective against Dublin eight days earlier, paying rich dividends again in turning this game around.
For sure, the wind was a factor, helping Galway to build a commanding lead as Shane Walsh pulled the strings with his movement and acceleration in the opening half, tormenting Pádraig Hampsey.
In full flow, Walsh is one of the most joyous Gaelic footballers to watch and in this league he has really flourished with his dexterity off left and right.
Here, he had landed five points (two from frees) by the break as Galway radiated confidence and ambition.
But Harte sensed that a seven-point deficit wasn't a true reflection the game and his instinct proved correct after the break as they applied pressure to the Galway full-back line that they haven't had much experience of in the last two seasons.
"There were a few aspects of our game that were killing us. Two aspects were our kick-outs and their kick-outs. They were killing us," noted Harte.
For one Galway kick-out Ruairi Lavelle must have carried it 90 metres to land into Walsh's path and from there the Kilkerrin-Clonberne man obliged with another mesmerising finish. It took nine seconds at most.
At the other end pressure on Niall Morgan's kick-outs coughed up the last three points of the first half for Galway to lead by 1-11 to 0-7, Johnny Heaney and Michael Daly contributing five between them on the back of Danny Cummins' 17th-minute punched goal.
But there were early signs of McShane's potential to dominate inside while Mattie Donnelly, enjoying another rich vein of form in this campaign, was also finding holes in the Galway defence.
Those holes became craters after the break. First McShane got in behind his marker Seán Andy ó Ceallaigh too easily to latch on to Michael Cassidy's delivery to draw the foul and win a penalty. As ever, Peter Harte, one of the best exponents around, obliged with the conversion.
That left just two points in it, 1-11 to 1-9, within eight minutes of the turnaround but it got even more calamitous for the Galway defence when Donnelly snaffled a poor ó Ceallaigh handpass to Lavelle, who had ventured 45 metres out of his own goal and with no cover Donnelly had an empty net in the horizon.
From about 30 metres he sidefooted with remarkable accuracy for the lead on 48 minutes, once again raising the question of balance between risk and reward when goalkeepers coming so far away from their territory.
When Peter Harte almost replicated Donnelly's goal with a shot from his hands on 64 minutes, it reflected the chaos the Galway defence was submerged in.
Around the fringes, McShane was profiting with a point from play and then a mark in quick succession while Kieran McGeary tied up Walsh at the other end.
Kevin Walsh felt Eoghan Kerin's black card on 56 minutes and then a red (two yellows) for Gary O'Donnell just as Kerin was coming back on, impacted on their ability to chase the game down.
"(Those cards) didn't allow the numbers to push up as much as we would have liked but that's life, the league is over - seven games and eight points. At the start of the league we'd have taken that."
And yet it will grate that they spurned an opportunity to contest a league final in Dublin's absence.
"There was an opportunity for a league final," he conceded. "But then again, in six weeks' time I don't anyone will be talking about league finals. It was important that we had a reasonably good Division 1."
It was Tyrone's fourth successive win, a far cry from their abject show against Mayo in the second round. Harte never felt that poor start to the league was "reflective of how good this team can be".
"The next four games after that proves that we were right to think that there is something good in this team. They couldn't be in the All-Ireland final a few short months ago and be as poor as some people would have suggested after three games."
Their use of the long ball to McShane pleased him again. "It gives us another option as well as the running game. We do have an option to kick the ball in, and it tends to be quite effective."
Scorers - Tyrone: M Donnelly 1-4, P Harte 1-3 (1-0 pen, 2f), C McShane 0-4 (2f, 1m), C McCann 1-0, M Cassidy 0-2, D McCurry, K McGeary 0-1 each. Galway: S Walsh 0-6 (3f), J Heaney 0-4, D Cummins 1-0, M Daly 0-2, G Bradshaw, A ó Laoi (f) 0-1 each.
Tyrone - N Morgan 6; HP McGeary 6, R McNamee 6, P Hampsey 6; M Cassidy 7, B McDonnell 6, C Meyler 7; C Cavanagh 8, B Kennedy 6; R Donnelly 5, P Harte 7, N Sludden 6; M Donnelly 9, C McShane 8, K McGeary 8. Subs: K Coney 7 for McDonnell (42), M McKernan 6 for HP McGeary (42), D McCurry for Sludden (63), C McCann for R Donnelly (69).
Galway - R Lavelle 6; E Kerin 6, SA ó Ceallaigh 5, D Wynne 6; G O'Donnell 7, J Daly 7, G Bradshaw 7; T Flynn 6, C Duggan 6; J Heaney 8, M Daly 7, F ó Laoi 5; S Walsh 8, D Cummins 6, A ó Laoi 6. Subs: C Darcy 6 for Duggan (h-t), S Kelly 6 for F ó Laoi (42), E Brannigan 5 for Cummins (57), K Molloy for Bradshaw (66).
Ref - C Reilly (Meath)
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