All too easy for the Tribesmen as Dubs capitulate
Galway 2-28 Dublin 1-17
Galway came to Tullamore yesterday expecting a stubborn challenge and left with a sense that they had booked a Leinster semi-final date with Offaly off a performance that didn't stretch them beyond 75 per cent of their immense capacity.
Dublin arrived with ambitions of reviving a season that had already seen them relegated from Division 1A and left with a feeling that unless they get a really kind draw in the first round of the qualifiers, their championship ambitions will be short-lived.
In fairness, they can point to the dismissal of corner-back Cian O'Callaghan on a second yellow card in the 42nd minute as an aggravating factor in a defeat which might well have been by a much bigger margin.
However, there was a lot more to Galway's superiority than a numerical advantage.
Apart from a brief spell towards the end of the first quarter, when Dublin scored four unanswered points to lead 0-5 to 0-4, Galway always looked by far the more formidable force, playing comfortably within themselves.
They held a physical edge in most of the individual battles and when Jason Flynn pounced for their first goal in the 29th minute, there was a feeling around O'Connor Park that an irreversible trend had been set.
Dublin gave themselves a boost in stoppage-time when an excellent move left Ben Quinn with a goal opportunity, which he took with maximum efficiency.
He had the ball in the Galway net earlier on, only to be whistled back for over-carrying by referee Barry Kelly. It was one of several decisions that bewildered and irritated manager Ger Cunningham (right) in equal measures.
"I thought it was harsh to pull Ben back on that. It was very marginal, but then I was surprised by some of the decisions in the second-half too. Lads were being pulled as they tried to get away and there were a few high tackles. It was very frustrating watching it from the sideline," he said.
O'Callaghan was yellow-carded for a late challenge on Flynn as he struck Galway's opening goal, a needless foul that took on much greater significance in the 42nd minute when he was adjudged to have tripped Joseph Cooney. A second yellow brought red, leaving Dublin short-handed for the remainder of a game was always going one way.
Galway led by 1-10 to 1-7 at half-time before adding five points in the opening eight minutes of the second-half.
That scoring burst, coupled with O'Callaghan's departure, left Dublin with a challenge that would have probably proved beyond the range of any opposition, let alone an inexperienced outfit whose confidence took a hit when losing five of six league games.
Cunningham described O'Callaghan's dismissal as "extremely harsh" and had no doubt that it was the game's ultimate turning point.
"It was always going to be hard to beat Galway with 15 players, so losing a man in those circumstances was very disappointing. We were beaten by a better team, but I wouldn't be happy with some of the decisions," he said.
Realistically, damage limitation was the only target available to Dublin after O'Callaghan's sending-off and while they battled hard to achieve it, the homeward journey would still have been a sombre experience.
Conor Cooney fired home Galway's second goal in the 53rd minute, by which stage manager Micheál Donoghue had already begun utilising his exceptionally strong bench.
He had lost corner-back Paul Killeen to a knee injury in the first-half, which Donoghue fears may be a season-ending cruciate tear, but his four other subs were brought on with a view to improving their sharpness in a championship environment - albeit one where the intensity had dropped to little above challenge game levels.
Three of the subs, Niall Burke, Thomas Monaghan and Eanna Burke, all picked off points, taking to 10 the number of scorers in a performance which ticked enough of the required boxes to count as a very satisfactory lift-off for their championship adventure.
Conor Whelan - who scored 0-5 for a second successive game - Joe Canning, Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn all prospered in attack, while David Burke not only supported the defence as required, but also got forward to shoot three points.
Aidan Harte was excellent at wing-back when the game was at its most competitive in the first-half and continued to impress in a much more relaxed second period.
"Delighted to be up and running. I thought we were a small bit rusty early on. We were six points up before half-time and then Dublin got a goal so it was important that we kicked on again (in the second-half)." said Donoghue.
"Things opened up for us when they were reduced to 14 men. It was easy enough to pick off scores after that."
Tipperary's defeat a week earlier had left Galway's antennae on high alert, but then there was a massive difference between Dublin and Cork, who had performed so well a week earlier.
Dublin simply came nowhere close to reaching those levels and they are now facing a huge test of their resilience, prior to re-booting for the qualifiers.
Cunningham said his side would learn from yesterday's experience, but whether the process will be quick enough to save their season has to be a major doubt.
"It was a big step up against a team like Galway, who are going so well now, but our lads will learn. They'll go away and recover. We have four or five weeks to turn things around. We have to get over today and see where the draw takes us," said Cunningham.
Meanwhile, Galway are looking ahead to a clash with Offaly, whose performance against Westmeath on Saturday didn't suggest they are ready for the test that awaits them.
"We'll do due diligence on them. They have had some great results over the past couple of weeks. They will be different opposition to when we played them previously (in the league last February)," said Donoghue.
Conor Cooney, who scored 1-3 before making way for Niall Burke in the final quarter yesterday, also felt that Galway were a bit rusty early on, leaving them with plenty to work on before the semi-final.
Still, the first task has been completed in a much easier manner than anyone would have anticipated.
"It's good to be up and running in the championship , but we're staying with the reality - it's one game at a time," said Cooney.
The likelihood is that Galway will arrive in Croke Park for the Leinster final without a real test since playing Waterford in their league quarter-final, for while Offaly usually rise to the western challenge, the counties are orbiting in very different circuits these days.
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-9 (5f), C Cooney 1-3, J Flynn 1-2, C Whelan 0-5, David Burke 0-3, N Burke 0-2, C Mannion, J Cooney, T Monaghan, E Burke 0-1 each.
Dublin: D Treacy 0-5 (4f), B Quinn 1-0, D Burke (2f) 0-3, E Dillon, C Crummey, J Hetherton (1f) 0-2 each, S Barrett, R McBride, F Whitely 0-1 each.
Galway - C Callanan 7; A Tuohy 7, Daithi Burke 7, P Killeen 6; P Mannion 7, G McInerney 7, A Harte 9; J Coen 7, David Burke 8; C Mannion 7, J Canning 8, J Cooney 7; C Whelan 8, C Cooney 8, J Flynn 8. Subs: J Hanbury 7 for Killeen (25), N Burke 7 for C Cooney (57), T Monaghan for C Mannion (63), S Loftus for Coen (63), E Burke for D Burke (68).
Dublin - C Dooley 7; C O'Callaghan 5, E O'Donnell 6, O Gough 6; C Crummey 7, L Rushe 6, S Barrett 6; N McMorrow 5, S Moran 6; E Conroy 5, B Quinn 7, D Treacy 5; R O'Dwyer 5, D Burke 6, E Dillon 7.
Subs: R McBride 7 for Conroy (ht), F Whitely 6 for Treacy (51), J Malone 6 for McMorrow (60), D O'Callaghan for Burke (66), J Hetherton for O'Dwyer (66).
Ref - B Kelly (Westmeath)