Harsh dismissal of captain Egan sees Offaly hopes fizzle out
Galway 2-19 Offaly 2-9 Leinster SHC semi-final
It was an encounter in difficult wind and rain in O'Moore Park in Portlaoise which coughed up plenty of talking points but little by way of hard evidence that Galway have pushed on enough to trouble Kilkenny this summer.
We will all be a bit wiser in two weeks when the Tribesmen go toe-to-toe with the All-Ireland champions in the Leinster final, after Galway negotiated their passage through the easy side of the draw without slipping up.
Galway blitzed Westmeath in their opening game with a flurry of early scores, and their supporters in the crowd of 6,121 will be encouraged by the way they responded yesterday when they were on the receiving end as Offaly hit them for 1-2 in the opening three minutes.
For a time the Faithful County turned back the clock and hurled with that fervour and lethalness which marked the glory years, and a goal from Joe Bergin after just 15 seconds and quick points from Shane Dooley and Dermot Mooney stunned Galway. But the Tribesmen did not panic and they were back on level terms when Niall Burke, back in the championship for the first time in two years, found the net.
"I knew coming into the game that the lads were in a good position so obviously not the ideal start but I think they showed great character in responding to being 1-2 down," said Galway manager Micheal Donoghue.
"We worked through the lines and got back into the game and I suppose we were in a good position at half-time, only being one down." Offaly's hopes faded when captain Colin Egan picked up a straight red for a frontal challenge on Fergal Moore, although Galway skipper David Burke was lucky to escape with yellow moments earlier which forced Dooley to go off for treatment to a facial injury.
Dooley returned and became Offaly's all-time top scorer when his fifth point of the game before the break saw him edge past Brian Carroll in the listings to send them in 1-7 to 1-6 ahead at the break. But the loss of Egan was always going to be too much facing into the wind in the second half with even Galway manager Donoghue agreeing it was harsh. "I think with the elements and the conditions, it was probably harsh. The ground was very slippy.
You'd have to give players a bit of leeway in that. "There were a few incidents where the conditions did play a part in it so look, in fairness to Colin, I don't think there was any malice in the challenge." Offaly manager Eamonn Kelly said it was a tight call but one that proved very costly for his side. "There was nothing rash in it. It wasn't a dirty game by any manner or means. I know referees try to bring a bit of order because there were a few hardy belts before that. He was a huge loss to us. "I can say it looks harsh from where I was. I'll have to take a look at it afterwards.
Having 14 men against a quality side like that is always going to be difficult. "It's 16 you'd want against a team like that, never mind 14! Galway are a good side and they'll have a huge say in this All-Ireland campaign yet." Galway showed their class after the restart with Conor Cooney punishing Offaly's inability to clear their lines with a goal, and then outscoring them by 0-10 to 0-1 in the next 16 minutes. There was more than a glimpse of Galway's swagger from last summer in that blitz.
But Bergin continued to trouble the Galway full-back line and Offaly got a lifeline when he was pulled down and Dooley dispatched a penalty to cut the gap to 2-15 to 2-9 with 13 minutes remaining. And Galway were then reduced to 14 when Conor Cooney, already on a yellow card, got a straight red for something spotted by a linesman. Video footage later showed that the incident was innocuous and that Galway will likely be successful in an appeal.
They finished out the contest on the front foot with Joe Canning taking his haul to 0-8 as they dusted themselves off for another crack at Kilkenny.
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-8 (6f, 1 '65); C Cooney 1-3; N Burke 1-0; P Mannion, David Burke & J Cooney 0-2 each; C Whelan & C Donnellan 0-1 each. Offaly: S Dooley 1-5 (1-0 pen, 4f); J Bergin 1-1; D Mooney, P Murphy & J Mulrooney 0-1 each.
Galway - C Callanan 7; J Coen 7, J Hanbury 6, F Moore 6; P Mannion 8, Daithi Burke 7, A Harte 7; David Burke 7, D Glennon 6; N Burke 6, J Cooney 7, J Canning 7; C Whelan 7, C Mannion 7, C Cooney 7. Subs: C Donnellan 6 for Glennon (47), J Flynn 6 for N Burke (51), A Smith 7 for David Burke (71).
Offaly - J Dempsey 7; N Wynne 7, P Rigney 6, C McDonald 6; D King 7, S Gardiner 6, D Mooney 7; S Ryan 6, P Murphy 7; S Kinsella 6, S Dooley 7, J Mulrooney 6; K Connolly 6, J Bergin 7, C Egan 6. Subs: K Kiely 6 for Mulrooney (36), E Nolan 6 for Connolly (36), P Guinan 6 for Ryan (45), S Cleary 6 for Murphy (68). Referee: C Lyons (Cork)