Table-toppers turn up heat before final
Galway 0-13 Dublin 0-13
Drama on the western seaboard, laced with all kinds of anarchy in the home straight.
The wind-chill factor in Pearse Stadium yesterday was more than offset by rocketing temperatures at pitch level where Galway and Dublin pulled and dragged - not quite with impunity, but as if they weren't overly bothered if officialdom was watching.
All of which suggests that the previously low-key rivalry between these counties has gone from zero to 60 in just 70 minutes. And this time, instead of waiting seven years for their next competitive encounter, they'll be squaring off in just a fortnight at Croke Park, with the Division 1 title at stake.
Galway were already through to the decider, but the avoidance of a potentially scarring defeat to the indomitable Dubs is sure to bolster the growing self-belief in Kevin Walsh's squad.
This wind-blighted yet pulsating stalemate, watched by a crowd of 10,050, was enough to ensure that the All-Ireland champions will join them.
When it was all over, the various statistical audits totted up as follows …
Parity on the scoreboard, thanks to Johnny Heaney's deserved last-gasp leveller for the hosts.
Five yellow cards for Galway, three for Dublin. One black card apiece - Dublin's Dean Rock and Galway's Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh. Plus one straight red for Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara, seven minutes after his 63rd-minute introduction following an off-the-ball flashpoint that left Ó Ceallaigh on the turf.
Five minutes of injury-time had been signalled and yet Heaney's left-footed equaliser into the teeth of a mini-gale, latching onto Barry McHugh's quickly-taken free, came in the 79th minute.
Where did Joe McQuillan find close to four extra minutes? Quite easily, given the assortment of hold-ups in added time. Some were prompted by legitimate stoppages: Ó Ceallaigh injured himself in the process of dragging down Mick Fitzsimons for the foul that led to Cormac Costello's putative match-winning free, and had to be helped off the pitch, ushered on his way by a black card.
Other stoppages, though, were mired in cynicism. In this particular phase, with Galway chasing a game they had led all the way from the tenth minute, Dublin were the culpable ones.
The otherwise magnificent Ciarán Kilkenny was the most obvious example, holding onto Damien Comer, far away from the play - but he wasn't alone. It all had echoes of Mayo last September; except here there was no Sam Maguire on the line.
Not surprisingly, neither manager was making a song and dance about the fractious climax.
"I'm not being smart but you probably saw a lot more than I did even though it was right in front of me," said Walsh. "It's a passionate game. Guys are trying to fight their own corner. I don't think there were too many belts but there was a bit of cynical stuff going on."
When asked for his perspective, Gavin pinpointed a moment where O'Gara wasn't given "the advantage" for fielding a Galway kick-out.
"He gave a free against us which I found really strange to believe," the Dublin manager surmised. "One of the last plays in the game - another kick-out, Philly McMahon picks up the ball, again he is wrestled to the ground and he is given a free for over-carrying again.
"Listen, we were the attacking team there in the second half and we created some great scoring chances," he stressed.
So, it was all one-way?
"Ah no. Two teams going hard at it. It is March football and you have two quality teams going head to head."
It was no classic, with Galway pulling multiple bodies back even when backed by the first-half elements. Dublin played keep-ball for much of that half. The visitors opened brightly with points from Kilkenny (his first of five from play) and a Dean Rock free. But Galway grew into it and were clinical for much of a half that finished 0-10 to 0-5 in their favour.
It might have been better still: Adrian Varley and Barry McHugh both found themselves one-on-one with Evan Comerford (making his Dublin debut after 28 consecutive league and championship starts by the rested Stephen Cluxton) but fired over. Dublin might have pinched a goal of their own but James McCarthy's handpass to Rock didn't stick.
Backed by the wind, Dublin's comeback was a slow-burner but they looked poised, trailing by one, until the Galway bench came to the fore. First, skipper Comer ended a barren 24-minute spell with an inspirational point; then Heaney stretched their lead to three.
There followed an angry eruption on the sideline - after checking with his linesman, McQuillan confined the punishment to yellows for Philly McMahon and Eamonn Brannigan.
Amid the mayhem, Dublin retained their steely focus and went for the late kill. Frees by Conor McHugh and Costello, then Kilkenny's fifth point, drew them level before Costello (again) and Heaney completed the scoring drama.
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 6; E Kerin 7, SA Ó Ceallaigh 7, D Wynne 6; G O'Donnell 7, J Duane 6, C Sweeney 6; P Conroy 7, C Duggan 6; T Flynn 6, P Cooke 7, A Varley 6; S Walsh 6, S Armstrong 6, B McHugh 7. Subs: E Brannigan 6 for Varley (41), D Comer 7 for Walsh (46), J Heaney 8 for Cooke (50), S Kelly 6 for Armstrong (57), D Kyne for Ó Ceallaigh (BC 76).
Dublin - E Comerford 7; D Byrne 6, P McMahon 6, M Fitzsimons 7; E Lowndes 5, J Small 6, J Cooper 7; J McCarthy 7, MD Macauley 6; C Reddin 5, C Kilkenny 9, C Basquel 6; P Small 6, D Rock 6, P Andrews 6. Subs: B Fenton 6 for Lowndes (h-t), C Costello 6 for Rock (BC 47), C McHugh 6 for Reddin (50), E Ó Conghaile 6 for Macauley (59), E O'Gara 4 for P Small (63), A McGowan for J Small (67).
Ref - J McQuillan (Cavan)