Loss of leads hasn’t tripped Tribe up so far but it’s been a recurring theme
The common denominator for all four goals that Galway have conceded in normal time in their four championship games in 2022 won’t be lost on Padraic Joyce ahead of their All-Ireland semi-final with Derry.
Each one has been leaked late, so late in the case of the last three that it has been deep into added time when cover has been breached.
Against Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final, the damage resulted in extra-time and penalties that, having come through them successfully, could have a galvanising effect of steeling them ever more for what’s ahead.
That’s the optimistic view.
But the panic that developed in their own goalmouth that afternoon, the loss of control that allowed Aidan Nugent and then Conor Turbitt to exploit and turn a deteriorating situation around for them, had a prequel just a few weeks earlier and, if they look back far enough and in the games that have really mattered, have followed a similar pattern.
Galway have not been authoritative enough when they’ve built up decent leads and have shown a vulnerable side.
Does it matter when they’re winning games and enjoying the journey? Maybe not so much. But a team with their ambition has to unearth a more ruthless streak when they get themselves into the positions they have found themselves in so often now.
Against Roscommon in the Connacht final at the end of May, the consequences weren’t so great because they were so far ahead, nine points at one stage before first Conor Daly arrived late to finish with seven minutes of normal time remaining, followed by Diarmuid Murtagh in the last passage of play. The impact of those two goals was felt on the scoreboard but not the result as Galway won by three points. The cushion was enough.
It left a false impression though that the game was close when it wasn’t. Galway had outplayed Roscommon but that wasn’t accurately reflected in the scoreline as Roscommon chiselled out some respectability.
Four weeks before that, Galway had to withstand a late Mayo rally too in Castlebar after building up a six-point lead, 1-14 to 0-11, with 10 minutes remaining.
On this occasion there were no goals, but Mayo were able to strike from distance. Sparked by a Lee Keegan point, it was followed up with further points from O’Donoghue, Cillian O’Connor from two frees and substitute Kevin McLoughlin before Aidan Orme spurned a late chance for a draw and extra-time. Galway were only hanging on and had they been caught, extra-time might have been quite painful for them and, perhaps, presented a different shape to the season.
The outcomes in each game have helped to disguise that late vulnerability and Galway can take something from the fact that they have still survived when everything has been thrown at them by teams that will all play in Division 1 next year.
And they can point to it as progress from last year. They spent late winter and spring wading through Division 2 because of an inability to defend a five-point as the clock ticked through normal time in their Division 1 relegation play off against Monaghan in Clones last June.
Joyce had bristled at Monaghan entitlement to home venue, having played two of their three league games away, and ultimately it benefited them as first Conor McManus with the last kick of normal time and then Jack McCarron from much the same position at the end of extra-time delivered killer blow.
It should never have gone that far. When Shane Walsh dropped his fourth shot of the afternoon into Rory Beggan’s arms, Joyce whipped him off amidst a general feeling that they would see the game out.
But Darren Hughes caught them with a late goal, again poorly defended and with a sense of chaos reigning and they were dragged to a place they just didn’t want to or need to go that day.
A five-point lead was dangerous territory in last year’s Connacht final against Mayo too though this time Mayo made their move early with goals in the third quarter turning this one around.
You have to imagine that Galway will extract much from how they pulled it around against Armagh in the circumstances. Tiernan Kelly may have given them an ‘out’, changing the dressing-room dynamic from potential regret and anxiety to one of rage over what his colleagues had seen happen to Damien Comer.
At their peak, Comer, Shane Walsh, Matthew Tierney and Rob Finnerty are great talents who showed nerve in the shoot-out. Johnny Heaney’s capacity for goals and his defensive capabilities provide another dimension. But bringing order to those closing moments feels like it must be a priority now for Galway as they move further into the business end of the season.