Maturing Tribesmen dig deep to evict Kildare
Galway 0-19 Kildare 0-16
However they go about it, Kildare just cannot beat Galway, whose dominance over the Lilywhites extends back to 1985.
They beat Kildare for a fourth time in 15 months in Newbridge yesterday, via the same route that brought them two wins in last year's League and one this season.
None of the four games produced a goal, but that's irrelevant to Galway, whose excellent point-taking return was more than enough to secure victory on each occasion.
This was the most important of those contests as it steered Galway into the All-Ireland semi-finals for the first time in 17 years. That was settled later in the afternoon when Kerry and Monaghan drew in the most dramatic circumstances in Clones.
A draw looked a distinct possibility in Newbridge when Kildare cut a four-point deficit on the hour mark down to one in the 64th minute, but late points from Sean Kelly and Damien Comer ensured that Galway's excellent season - they have lost only one of 13 League and Championship games - continued with maximum positivity.
It left Kildare stuck in the unfortunate position of having to complete the 'Super 8s' against Kerry in Killarney on Saturday week with no chance of progressing to the semi-finals.
This type of situation is the biggest downside of the new system as there's something deeply unsatisfactory about a game so late in the Championship mattering to only one of the contestants.
Kildare would have remained in contention, albeit only just, if they had snatched a draw yesterday, but it wasn't to be on a day where the dismissal of full-forward Daniel Flynn in the 46th minute was a possible game-changer.
He was sent off on a straight red card by Tyrone referee Sean Hurson for lashing back at Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh, a decision which infuriated Kildare manager Cian O'Neill.
Hurson acted on the advice of a linesman, which added to O'Neill's annoyance as he alleged there were several instances of his players being fouled off the ball, especially on kick-outs.
"It's an absolute disgrace that you can be selective in what you see and choose to act upon," he said.
Flynn, who had earlier kicked two points and three wides, was central to Kildare's attacking plans, so losing him was a serious blow. Apart from the scoring threat, his departure had other side-effects. It left Kildare short-handed in the sizzling summer sun, thereby increasing the workload on his colleagues, who were playing for a fifth successive weekend.
In fairness, their energy levels remained impressively high, but there was little they could do in the closing minutes as Galway used the extra man skilfully to help execute their ball-retention drills.
It drove Kildare to distraction as they tried to regain possession, but, with one or two exceptions, Galway were comfortable in possession as they ran down the clock. In terms of entertainment it had zero value, but unfortunately that's how the modern game has developed.
Nobody could blame Galway for deploying the system which gave them the best chance of seeing the game out, but the GAA's power-brokers really do need to review the rules, which actively encourage this approach.
None of which will be of any concern to Galway as they look ahead to the semi-final. Of course, they still have to play Monaghan in a game that will decide who tops the group.
"We're delighted with today, but we still have a lot of work to do," said Galway manager Kevin Walsh after a performance which underlined his side's growing maturity.
They held their nerve during the more difficult times, trusting themselves to work through them before pressing on when the opportunities arose. Their first test came in the opening half when, after leading by two points after 15 minutes, they were out-scored 05 to 0-1 over the next eight minutes.
Kildare half-forwards Paul and Keith Cribbin and Fergal Conway were most effective in that period, unsettling Galway's defensive system with their powerful runs.
At the other end, the Galway attack, which lost Michael Daly through injury after 10 minutes, were finding it increasingly difficult to find a way through a compact Kildare defence.
The departure of Daly, who had kicked two early points, was a massive setback to Galway, who were still two points adrift on the half-hour mark.
However, they kicked three scores before the interval to lead by 0-11 to 0-10, an advantage they had increased to four by the hour mark. Fears that Kildare's heavy schedule in recent weeks - plus the fact that they were down a man - might leave them weary on the run-in were quickly dispelled as Paddy Brophy and Neil Flynn (2) kicked points which cut the margin to one. With Kildare supporters in full voice, it appeared that home advantage might prove crucial, but it didn't turn out that way.
"In fairness, the Galway support was absolutely superb today -it really drove us on as well," said Walsh.
The most pleasing aspect from his perspective was the manner in which the team reacted when the challenge was at its most intense.
"We had to dig it out. We probably shouldn't have been in that position with the amount of chances we had, but we were. We missed a lot of chances that should have put us a bit more comfortable.
"It's a learning process, learning to dig out a result away from home on a tight pitch. When the boys were asked questions, they really dug it out," said Walsh.
Kildare were left to wonder what might have been if they weren't a man down for so long. The handicap proved too much for them against opposition that are becoming increasingly proficient in intelligent game management.
How far more it takes them this season remains to be see, but there's no doubt that their improvement rate has been phenomenal from a starting base last winter where there were serious doubts about their defence.
A draw against Monaghan in Pearse Stadium would be enough to top the group, which almost certainly will carry the incentive of avoiding Dublin in the semi-final.
No fewer than 13 Galway players got on the scoresheet, a tribute to the sense of togetherness they exude when their game is going well. As Walsh pointed out, they missed some excellent scoring chances - especially in the second-half - but they still landed 19 points, a return that wins a lot more games than it loses.
They can be well-pleased with their day's work, especially after learning on the way home that they were guaranteed a place in the semi-final, a target which proved beyond them in recent seasons.
As for Kildare, they can take encouragement from the manner in which they turned the season around after the Leinster quarter-final defeat by Carlow, but they will still feel that they should have taken something from the games with Monaghan and Galway.
"If we were 15 v 15 (today) it would have been a different game," said O'Neill.
He may well be right, but then Galway could also have a complaint over having Damien Comer's goal disallowed for over-carrying in the 49th minute.
Scorers - Galway: S Walsh 0-4 (3f), D Comer 0-3, M Daly 0-2, P Cooke, J Heaney, C Sweeney, T Flynn, G Bradshaw, E Brannigan, I Burke, G O'Donnell, S Armstrong, S Kelly 0-1 each.
Kildare: N Flynn 0-5 (3f), P Cribbin 0-3, D Flynn, P Brophy, F Conway 0-2 each, K Flynn, C Healy 0-1 each,
Galway - R Lavelle 6; D Kyne 7, SA O Ceallaigh 7, E Kerin 7; E Brannigan 7, G Bradshaw 7, C Sweeney 7; P Cooke 7, T Flynn 8; J Heaney 6, M Daly (inj 10), S Kelly 8; I Burke 6, D Comer, S Walsh 7. Subs: P Sweeney 5 for Daly (10), S Armstrong 7 for Sweeney(51), G O'Donnell 7 for Heaney (54), A Varley 6 for Brannigan (56 b/c), J Duane for O Ceallaigh (66), F O Curraoin for Flynn (69).
Kildare - M Donnellan 7; P Kelly 6, D Hyland 7, M O'Grady 7; J Byrne, 6 E Doyle 7, K Flynn 7; K Feely 6, T Moolick 6; F Conway 7, P Cribbin 7; K Cribbin 7; N Flynn 7, D Flynn 5, P Brophy 7. Subs: N Kelly 5 for Moolick (49), C Healy 6 for K Cribbin (53), J Murray 6 for P Kelly (58), DS Slattery for P Cribbin (66 b/c), E Callaghan for Brophy (66 b/c).
Ref - S Hurson (Tyrone)