Monday 11 December 2017

Flawless Whelan on fire as Tribe put Faithful on the floor

Galway 0-33 Offaly 1-11

Offaly's Ben Conneely climbs above Galway's Conor Whelan but still loses this aerial battle during yesterday's Leinster SHC semi-final in Portlaoise Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Offaly's Ben Conneely climbs above Galway's Conor Whelan but still loses this aerial battle during yesterday's Leinster SHC semi-final in Portlaoise Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

It says a lot about how much Galway have progressed this year that without breaching the Offaly defence for a goal, and having Joe Canning and David Burke virtually anonymous throughout, they still steamrolled the Faithful by 19 points.

Playing against two sweepers in the opening half, Galway's goal threat was effectively neutralised, but when they moved into their stride another facet of their game was highlighted, as they peppered scores at will from distance.

Galway manager Mícheál Donoghue Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Galway manager Mícheál Donoghue Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The ease at which they threw around the ball and rifled scores from out the pitch was staggering.

Conor Whelan's star also continues to soar, with the powerful Kinvara attacker finishing with seven points in an attacking tour de force.

With Canning having an off-day - his first possession from play came after 30 minutes, although it did result in a point - others stepped up. Niall Burke and first-half substitute Shane Moloney, who replaced Cathal Mannion - he left O'Moore Park in a protective boot due to an ankle injury - both staked their claim for inclusion.

With the tag of All-Ireland favourites around their shoulders and a huge expectancy that the Tribesmen would book a mouth-watering Leinster final with Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford next month, it was a no-win position for Galway boss Micheál Donoghue.

Conor Whelan of Galway scores a point while under pressure from Pádraic Guinan of Offaly Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Conor Whelan of Galway scores a point while under pressure from Pádraic Guinan of Offaly Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

However, much like their 14-point quarter-final defeat of Dublin, they went about their business professionally, while giving the impression that there's much more in the tank if needed.

Donoghue was pleased with their ability to think on their feet.

"We thought that Offaly might set up a sweeper and then they set up with two in the first-half. Testament to our boys, they adjusted themselves and often had to go shooting from distance," he said.

"They took the scores when they presented themselves. It was a different challenge, but the lads adapted to it very well. You would have liked to tack on a few goals, but for the fact that they had set up that way and our lads had their shooting boots on."

Shane Dooley often ploughed a lone furrow up front for the Faithful, being double marked on occasions as Paddy Murphy and Shane Kinsella filtered back into defence, but Offaly boss Kevin Ryan felt it necessary to preserve their hopes of staying competitive.

Oisín Kelly hit an early goal and had they showed a more clinical edge up front, Ryan believes they could have been much closer than seven points at the break. They trailed 0-16 to 1-7, but when Galway hit 10 of the next 11 scores he knew their goose was cooked.

"We created two or three good goal chances on top of the one we got. Our set-up and our game-plan, as such, was working. Galway got a couple of long-range points, but we were content with that, and kept our goal intact and kept ourselves in the game," Ryan said.

"We could easily have found ourselves level or even a point up at half-time, so there were definitely positives in the first-half. I definitely thought five minutes into the second-half that it was over and the scoreline reflected that in the end and the body language changed.

"But again, it's a learning curve and Galway are in the top two or three in the country. Wherever we are, we know where we are and it is about getting better as we go forward."

Rousing

Possibly on the back of Offaly legend Brian Whelahan being inducted into the Leinster GAA Hall of Fame just before throw-in to a rousing ovation, Ryan's side hit the ground running when Kelly collected a long Dermot Shortt delivery to fire to the net.

That wasn't part of the script, but Galway responded expertly. A brace apiece from the Mannion brothers, Cathal and Pádraic, as well as points from Whelan and Conor Cooney, had the sides level midway through the half, 0-6 to 1-3, with Dooley tapping over three frees at the other end.

Galway were finding an eight-man Offaly defence difficult to break down and opted to float over scores from long range, with four in a row - from Johnny Coen, Whelan, the impressive Aidan Harte and a Canning free - opening up a four-point lead.

They stretched that to seven by half-time and with Offaly going orthodox after the break, there was far more room for Galway to manoeuvre. They quickly put the game to bed with a flurry of points without stretching themselves.

For Ryan and Offaly it's a long road to get back to the heights of the '80s and '90s, but he's embracing the challenge.

"It is going to take us 12 months to get to the physical level of the Galways and Tipperarys, but we are determined to do that. This year is about survival and we have done that. We will just regroup and look forward to two weeks' time and see can we cut out the mistakes we made," he said.

"There are some very good lads there, there are some very determined lads. It is a pity that we don't have another six or seven, but we have what we have and those lads are getting the most out of it. We are downbeat. We are not happy for any team to get 33 points off you, but we know where it is at. We are going to be patient and we are going to build slowly."

SCORERS - Galway: J Canning (6f) and C Whelan 0-7 each, N Burke 0-5, S Moloney 0-4, A Harte 0-3, P Mannion, C Mannion and J Coen 0-2 each, C Cooney 0-1.

Offaly: S Dooley 0-9 (6f, 0-1 '65), O Kelly 1-0, E Nolan, L Langton 0-1 each.

GALWAY: C Callanan 6; A Tuohy 6, Daithí Burke 7, J Hanbury 6; P Mannion 7, G McInerney 6, A Harte 8; J Coen 7, David Burke 6; C Whelan 9, J Canning 6, C Mannion 6; J Flynn 5, C Cooney 6, N Burke 8. Subs: S Moloney 8 for C Mannion (24 inj), M Donohue 6 for P Mannion (54) S Loftus 6 for Tuohy (58), E Burke 6 for Canning (61), P Brehony 6 for David Burke (62).

OFFALY: J Dempsey 7; B Conneely 6, D Shortt 7, E Grogan 6; S Ryan 6, S Gardiner 6, D King 6; P Guinan 5, E Nolan 6; P Murphy 7, J Bergin 6, S Kinsella 6; S Cleary 5, S Dooley 7, O Kelly 7. Subs: L Langton 6 for Cleary (42), P Camon 6 for Ryan (52), S Quirke 6 for Guinan (54), D Doughan 6 for Murphy (61), J Mulrooney 6 for Kinsella (64).

REF - J Ryan (Tipperary)

Irish Independent

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