Galway end long running Croke Park drought as they claim Division 2 title against Kildare
Galway 0-18 Kildare 0-16
Galway ended a 16 year wait for a win in Croke Park when they edged out Kildare to secure the Allianz League Division 2 title in Croke Park on Sunday.
Last year's Connacht champions last won a game at GAA headquarters when they beat Meath in the 2001 All-Ireland decider but had failed to win a game in the stadium since.
However, they finally put the record straight with a narrow but deserved win over Kildare. Having already secured their place back in Division 1, Galway were in bonus territory already, but winning another trophy was a boost ahead of the championship.
Michael Daly – son of former Galway star Val Daly – made a signficant contribution kicking two points after coming off the bench while another substitute Gareth Bradshaw contributed a point as the Tribesmen withstood a grand stand finish from Kildare.
In the fourth minute of injury time Kevin Feely blasted a 13m free off the upright but Galway secured possession from the rebounded and the referee blew the final whistle to signal the end the Tribesmen's misery at headquarters.
Kildare looked the better side in the early stages of the second-half, but faded completely in the final quarter as their scoring rate ground to a halt.
Galway midfielder Paul Conroy was the key figure in the early exchanges, kicking the game's first point, having another shot blocked down by Eoin Doyle, and then winning a close in free which Gary Sice sliced wide.
Afterwards he faded though Galway continued to look the better side. But they failed to press home their advantage as they squandered a succession of point chances with a string of wides.
By half-time Galway had scored six points but recorded eight wides. Eamon Brannigan hit the upright with a point chance while Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan denied Johnny Heaney in the 29th minute – though their was little power in the shot.
Kildare were more economical up front, though they did record four wides. However, they kicked six points – three from play, with Niall Kelly – who operated at centre forward – looking lively. He was the only player in the first-half to score more than one point from play.
But there was no discernible pattern to the contest save for the fact that when they were defending Galway pulled 14 players behind the ball and while they attempted to break at speed it only worked on one occasion.
In the ninth minute when Brannigan broke at speed, and after he off-loaded the ball, he continued his run and was in position to take the scoring pass from from Sice who kicked it between the posts.
So the sides were deadlocked 0-6 each at the break.
Within two minutes of the resumption Galway were two points in front for the first time since the first quarter with points from Walsh and Armstrong. But Kildare responded in emphatic style outscoring their opponents 5-1 in the next ten minutes.
The key to the Lilywhites resurgence was Galway's inability to win their own kick-outs; they lost three on the spin and Kildare kicked a point from each turnover with substitutes Cathal McNally, and in particular David Slattery, making a significant contribution.
But as Galway's finishing improved they kept in touch and a pointed free from Sean Armstrong in the 58th minute tied up the game at 0-14 each.
With ten minutes left Galway substitute Michael Daly – son of former county star and manager Val – kicked his side back in front.
Galway were now on top having kicking four points on the spin and they made it five in a row with a monster effort from Liam Silke. Kevin Feely hit Kildare's first point from 13 minutes but Galway substitute Gareth Bradshaw restored Galway's two point advantage with two minutes of normal time remaining and they held out to secure the win and the silverware
Kildare: M Donnellan (0-1, 1 45); M O'Grady, D Hyland (0-1), O Lyons; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin (0-1); K Feely (0-4, 3f), T Moolick (0-1); F Conway (0-1), N Kelly (0-5), P Cribbin; C Healy, F Dowling (0-1), B McCormack. Subs: C McNally (0-1) for P Cribbin 39m; D Slattery for McCormack 43m; P Kelly for K Cribbin 65m; E Callaghan for Dowling 65m
Galway: R Lavelle; C Sweeney, D Kyne, D Wynne G O'Donnell (0-2), M Farragher, L Silke (0-1); P Conroy (0-2); F O Curraoin; J Heaney (0-2), E Brannigan (0-1), T Flynn; G Sice (0-1, 1f), S Armstrong (0-3, 1f), S Walsh (0-3). Subs: M Lundy for Sice 54m; G Bradshaw (0-1) for Farragher 56m, M Daly (0-2) for Brannigan 58m; D Comer for Armstrong 62m, I Bnurke for Walsh 68m
Referee: Derek O'Mahoney (Tipperary)