League final to be a feisty affair after Dublin and Galway draw in spiteful encounter
Galway 0-13 Dublin 0-13
EXPECT Croke Park fireworks – of the incendiary variety – when these same counties collide again in the Allianz Football League Division 1 final in two weeks' time.
Galway and Dublin played out an absorbing stalemate at Pearse Stadium this afternoon, watched by 10,050, but one that became increasingly fractious and spiteful during a prolonged bout of injury-time.
It initially appeared that Dublin would come away with both points after Cormac Costello's 75th minute free, but Galway engineered one last chance when Barry McHugh's short free located sub Johnny Heaney, who landed his second point with the game in its 79th minute.
The Tribesmen were already through to the decider but it would have been cruel luck if they had a game they led almost from pillar to post. As it was, the point earned with make them feel they can live with the Dubs, who are now also through to the final.
But it came at a cost, sub Eoghan O'Gara earning a straight red card late on after an off-the-ball incident with Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh.
The Galway full-back was later black-carded for the foul that led to Costello's late, late free; Dean Rock had earlier departed for a similar infraction.
With Galway already guaranteed progress to the Division 1 final, and Dublin just one point shy of qualification, this was a table-topping clash with a difference. Would Kevin Walsh show his full hand? Would the Dubs under Jim Gavin do as they always do – carry on winning regardless?
As it was, Walsh rested several of his front-line troops, including skipper Damien Comer and fellow in-form forward Eamonn Brannigan.
Gavin, once again, made four changes to the discussion document that was his match programme 15. They included a debut for 'keeper Evan Comerford thus ending an unbroken sequence of 28 league and championship appearances from skipper Stephen Cluxton.
There were also call-ups for Philly McMahon, Ciaran Reddin and Paddy Small.
Dublin made an instant statement of intent, Ciarán Kilkenny pointing straight from the throw-in. But it proved a misleading portent: facing into a typically stiff Salthill wind, making long-range shooting an impossibility, the visitors engaged in several prolonged bouts of 'keep ball' during the first half.
With Galway sticking to their spring habit of getting multiple men behind the ball, instead of pressing high, it led to several periods of possession-based tedium.
And yet when Galway gained possession or forced Dublin turnovers, they used the wind to profitable advantage.
They nailed eight of their first nine shots, with Gary O'Donnell's excellent score from the right touchline pushing them 0-8 to 0-3 clear after 24 minutes.
Dublin hit back with a brilliant point from Kilkenny; but then Galway hit back with a brace of their own, via Barry McHugh and Peter Cooke, with a booming score, his second of the day.
But Kilkenny, Dublin's standout first half performer, brought his haul to 0-3 in injury-time. It begged the question whether Galway's double-scores interval lead – 0-10 to 0-5 – would suffice.
In hindsight, the hosts would probably rue that two of those points – from Adrian Varley and McHugh - were one-on-one goal chances that flew over.
SCORERS - Galway: B McHugh 0-5 (3f, 1 '45'), P Cooke, J Heaney 0-2 each, A Varley, S Walsh, G O'Donnell, D Comer 0-1 each. Dublin: C Kilkenny 0-5, D Rock (2f), C Costello (2f) 0-2 each, P Andrews, J Cooper, P Small (f), C McHugh (f) 0-1 each.
GALWAY: R Ó Beoláin; E Kerin, SA Ó Ceallaigh, D Wynne; G O'Donnell, J Duane, C Sweeney; P Conroy, C Duggan; T Flynn, P Cooke, A Varley; S Walsh, S Armstrong, B McHugh.
Subs: E Brannigan for Varley (41), D Comer for Walsh (46), J Heaney for Cooke (50), S Kelly for Armstrong (57), J Heaney for Cooke (50), D Kyne for Ó Ceallaigh (BC 76).
DUBLIN: E Comerford; D Byrne, P McMahon, M Fitzsimons; E Lowndes, J Small, J Cooper; J McCarthy, MD Macauley; C Reddin, C Kilkenny, C Basquel; P Small, D Rock, P Andrews.
Subs: B Fenton for Lowndes (ht), C Costello for Rock (BC 47), C McHugh for Reddin (50), E Ó Conghaile for Macauley (59), E O'Gara for P Small (63), A McGowan for J Small (67).
REF: J McQuillan (Cavan).