Saturday 17 August 2019

Galway survive a scare at Ruislip to book place in Connacht semi-final

London 1-9 Galway 0-16

Liam Gavaghan of London in action against Liam Silke of Galway during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between London and Galway at McGovern Park in Ruislip, London, England. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Liam Gavaghan of London in action against Liam Silke of Galway during the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Quarter-Final match between London and Galway at McGovern Park in Ruislip, London, England. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Tony Tighe

After 40 years of routine trips to Ruislip, Galway were pushed to the pin of their collars at Ruislip today.

The Tribesmen had won their previous nine championship matches with London by an average of 16 points, and another one-sided victory was expected when they began the defence of their provincial title.

No-one told London though. With 13 English-born players on their panel, Ciaran Deely’s side pushed their Division One opponents all the way and should even have drawn level at the death.

Killian Butler, who struck a superb first-half goal, was presented with another glorious chance with three minutes remaining following a lightening London counter.

However, he dragged his shot across goal as Galway held on for the most unconvincing of victories.

“It’s the first round of the championship and always a tough assignment coming over here,” said Kevin Walsh, whose Sligo side was famously beaten by London in 2013.

“London were very well set up in fairness to them.

“It will be Tuesday night when we say what we really have to say. The amount of silly turnovers and missed opportunities left us where we shouldn’t be.

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“We gave away a very bad goal and went in level at half-time, and the next 10 minutes we totally dominated all the kick-outs.

“Ridiculous hand passing and ridiculous score misses [made it a difficult afternoon].”

Perhaps that 2013 defeat in the English capital was the reason Walsh had Galway sit off their opponents during the opening quarter. They piled bodies behind the ball, content to let their hosts dominate possession while trying to counter off unforced errors.

But it wasn’t until the midway point of the half that we saw glimpses of the Galway side that narrowly missed out on a league semi-final place.

Thomas Flynn was dominating the Ruislip skies and he and midfielder Michael Daly registered two points in as many minutes to put them 0-4 to 0-2 in front.

That kickstarted a Galway scoring burst, with Antaine O Laoi convering a superb effort from out wide for their fifth points in 11 minutes, and suddenly a regulation win looked on the cards.

But London finished the half on fire, largely due to Butler’s brilliant strike. The corner-forward collected Fearghal McMahon’s inside pass, left his marker Sean Andy O’Ceallaigh on the deck and buried a shot to the top corner of Ruairi Lavelle’s net.

With London captain Liam Gavaghan to the fore, they deservedly went in level at the break – 1-6 to 0-9 – thanks to two late points from their top-scorer Conor Doran.

However, their good work was undone within seven minutes of the restart as Shane Walsh’s switch to midfield paid dividends. He began to dictate proceedings, spraying some lovely passes across the paddock, and chipped in with two of their four points without reply to make it 0-13 to 1-6.

Again, Galway should have kicked on but again, they didn’t. Walsh’s 42nd-minute point was their last from play as they failed to capitalise on their dominance from kickouts.

Johnny Heaney’s late miss summed up Galway’s performance. Having carved out a goal chance, he opted to fist over the bar, only for the ball to drift wide, and moments later at the other end Butler should have drawn London level.

Walsh landed an insurance point in injury time, allowing the travelling support at the clubhouse to finally relax and enjoy their pint.

“It wasn’t all negative, if we were clinical up front and hadn’t had as many bad turnovers [it might have been different],” said Walsh.

“Our winning of kickouts was top notch [but] a few little things can throw spanner in the works.

At end of day we have a game under our belt we are into the semi-final stage and it’s good to get a good run out.

“The fact that when you don’t finish things off, it tests character and character had to come into it in the end so that’s important as well.”

Scorers - Galway: S Walsh 0-7 (5f, 1 ’45), I Burke 0-2, J Heaney, T Flynn, M Daly, L Silke, A O Laoi, P Cunningham, G O’Donnell 0-1 each.

London: C Doran 0-6 (3f), K Butler 1-1, L Gavaghan, F McMahon 0-1 each.

Galway: R Lavelle; E Kerin, SA O’Ceallaigh, D Wynne; L Silke, J Daly, G O’Donnell; T Flynn, M Daly; A O’Laoi, P Cunningham, J Heaney; I Burke, S Walsh, D Cummins.

Subs: R Finnerty for Cummins (48), F O Curraoin for Cunningham (52), G Bradshaw for O’Donnell (61), E Brannigan for Daly (70).

London: G McEvoy; P Butler, M Moynihan, C O’Neill; D Carrabine, M Clarke, E Flanagan; A McDermott, L Feerick; M Gottsche, L Gavaghan, B Tully; C Doran, F McMahon, K Butler.

Subs: A McGarvey for Tully (64), S Hickey for Doran (64), J Hynes for McMahon (64), D Dunne for Carrabine (64), P McGirr for O’Neill (70).

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh)

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