Galway earn slot in Division 1 final as Kerry fail to win on the road this league campaign

Allianz NFL Division 1 Galway 1-13, Kerry 0-14

26 March 2023; Tomo Culhane of Galway in action against Dylan Casey of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Pearse Stadium in Galway. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Colm Keys

A first Galway-Mayo Allianz Division 1 league final since 2001 was confirmed as the Tribesmen held firm this time against a Kerry side that couldn't repeat their All-Ireland final second-half act in Salthill.

Kerry put themselves into a strong position to repeat last July's power surge when, after trailing by a goal at the break, having played against the wind, they stepped it up and twice got to within a point of their hosts midway through the second half.

But it's a sign of growing Galway maturity and confidence that they kept their shape and composure to seal off the gaps that had surfaced in last year's decider.

Neither Shane Walsh nor David Clifford had the same influence here, but Walsh's frees were vital to Galway keeping ahead in the second half.

The suggestion that neither side had any real conviction to win this was misplaced, with both sides having close to their strongest teams at different stages of the second half as big names got back into action.

Galway's returning players were arguably more significant, with Damien Comer back on the bench and coming into the action on 42 minutes and Rob Finnerty also among the replacements, surfacing 12 minutes later.

Both kicked points during that tense spell when Kerry poked and prodded without ever getting parity, which might have broken the game in a different direction.

Galway had got out in front early, and within a minute, had a goal chance when Walsh and Paul Conroy put Johnny Heaney through behind the cover. Heaney gets himself into these positions so often, but this time, Shane Ryan was equal to him and the moment passed.

They steadily built a lead through the first quarter, however, and by the 19th minute, the gap was four points, 0-6 to 0-2.

But Galway needed their goalkeeper Bernard Power, in for regular custodian Conor Gleeson, to come to their rescue too when he denied Paudie Clifford after another brilliant pass from Tony Brosnan mirroring that which created last week's goal against Roscommon for David Clifford.

Whatever wind advantage was there was in Galway's favour through the first half and that seemed to be a factor in their goal on 33 minutes after Kerry had closed to two points, 0-7 to 0-5.

Conroy put in a ball that held up, but in the swirling wind, it appeared to deceive Shane Ryan and, with the aid of an upright, crept over the line, another giveaway that will frustrate Kerry, who have been more porous in this campaign than they were 12 months earlier.

But the response from the visitors was swift, David Clifford began to find a little more space and Gavin White cut through for a point before Seán O'Shea won a free, which he converted himself for a 1-7 to 0-7 interval deficit.

Power did his prospects of seeing more game time as the summer unfolds no harm with a further save from Seán O'Shea from close range in the second half.

Galway pushed out their lead to four points on 66 minutes before Kerry hit the last two points through Paudie Clifford and a Seán O'Shea 45.

For Kerry, it concluded an indifferent league campaign. They survived but won none of their games on the road and clearly lacked the spark of last year, with David Clifford and O'Shea only contributing one point between them from play here.

Scorers – Galway: S Walsh 0-5 (5fs); P Conroy 1-0; J Maher 0-2; J Daly, R Finnerty, D Comer, T Culhane, M Tierney, C Sweeney 0-1 each. Kerry: S O'Shea 0-5 (2fs, 2 45s); P Clifford, D Clifford (2fs), T O'Sullivan, BD O'Sullivan 0-2 each; G White 0-1.

Galway – B Power; J McGrath, S Kelly, S Fitzgerald; D McHugh, J Daly, C Hernon; P Conroy, J Maher; M Tierney, J Heaney, P Cooke; C Sweeney, S Walsh, T Culhane. Subs: J Glynn for Hernon (h-t), D Comer for Culhane (42), R Finnerty for Maher ((54), D O'Flaherty for Heaney (72)

Kerry – S Ryan; D Casey, J Foley, T O'Sullivan; T Morley, P Murphy, G White; J Barry, BD O'Sullivan; R Murphy, S O'Shea, P Clifford; T Brosnan, D Clifford, D O'Sullivan. Subs: D Moynihan for R Murphy (h-t), D O'Connor for BD O'Sullivan (40), K Spillane for D O'Sullivan (46), G O'Sullivan for Casey ((52), P Geaney for P Murphy

Ref – N Cullen (Fermanagh)