Flynn helps Galway overpower gutsy Dublin and set up divisional showdown
Galway 1-20 Dublin 1-14
The only significant thing Galway didn't win last year was promotion from Division 1B but the reigning All-Ireland and League champions ensured their chance of doing so next Sunday with a gritty six point win in Parnell Park yesterday.
At first glance, Galway's 2018 League programme appeared almost designed in ascending order of difficulty, starting last month at home to Antrim and culminating in next Sunday's 'promotion playoff' clash with Limerick back in Salthill.
And mostly, they have moved effortlessly through the gears as required, although Dublin did at least manage to make life difficult for a time.
At one stage in the first half, the visitors led by nine points and seemed to be sauntering to a fourth straight League win.
By the 53rd minute though, Dublin had it clipped back to just two, only minutes after Paul Winters had a penalty saved by Galway goalkeeper James Skehill.
In that 20-minute spell after half-time, we had what seemed would elude us from very early on a sparkling February afternoon in Donnycarney - a contest.
Then, as he had all afternoon, Jason Flynn popped up and produced the required scores, a blast of 1-1 that quenched Dublin's rapidly-spreading belief.
"It's important but we're up against Limerick who have been burning a big blaze in the division as well," reflected Micheál Donoghue when asked about the significance of next Sunday's game, a de facto 1B final. "They're probably well ahead of us in terms of preparation and stuff so it's going to be another step up for us.
"But we'll just go back this week and work hard and look forward to the game.
"They've been burning it up in fairness to them, putting up big scores so it's going to be a big challenge for us."
For Pat Gilroy, yesterday represented Dublin's best League performance of his reign so far.
And Offaly's victory over Laois in Tullamore earlier in the day ensured that a win in Portlaoise next Sunday against the latter will put Dublin into a League quarter-final, thus avoiding the ignominy of a relegation play-off to Division 2A.
"It was a defeat but it was worlds apart from our performance last week," Gilroy said, noting the disparity in effort between yesterday and his team's dire evening in Limerick eight days earlier.
"We got massive work rate out there.
"We missed a couple of chances for goals that on other days, might have gone in," he pointed out.
"But you couldn't fault their effort. It was double the effort compared to what we put in last week."
As demanded by Gilroy, Dublin brought endless aggression and graft to Parnell Park yesterday, but Galway's hurling was sparkling by comparison.
Cathal Mannion scored four points from wing-forward. His brother, Pádraig, pinched two from wing-back.
There was another productive display too from Turloughmore's midfield prospect Seán Loftus, who scored two of his own.
But Flynn was the game's dominant character.
By the half-hour mark, Galway led by 0-13 to 0-4 but a goal from Danny Sutcliffe and a free from Winters - won by Sutcliffe - put Dublin back within swinging distance.
By comparison, the second half was a far more balanced contest.
Winters kept Dublin in scores and when Liam Rushe was bundled over on his way to goal in the 46th minute, he had a crucial penalty to stand over, too.
Skehill dived high to his right and tipped the shot behind his post when a Dublin goal would have brought their arrears back to a point.
They got it back to just two soon after but Flynn's stylish goal killed Dublin's momentum.
Mannion sent one in from deep and the big Tommy Larkin's man fetched, turned and buried past Alan Nolan in a brilliant display of scoring power.
"It was a step up again for us," Donoghue noted.
"We'll just go back to the training ground and push on again for next week.
"Nothing changes for us, it's about getting the work in, getting the games, getting to the latter stages if we can and getting ready for the Championship."