No more 'moral victories' for Dubs as Kenny's troops stun the Tribes
Dublin 3-19 Galway 0-24
With 67 minutes gone of an utterly compelling and hair-raising evening's hurling, the ground constantly shifting under the players' feet, Chris Crummey decided to abandon restraint and scored the goal that won it.
The rangy Lucan half-back put the task of watching Jonathan Glynn to one side and found the corner of the net, with the teams deadlocked for the 18th time. With an unfavourable result from Wexford Park, Galway, the 2017 All-Ireland champions and Leinster winners of the last two years, were dramatically eliminated from the Championship on score difference.
Mattie Kenny, only too aware that it meant a painful summer's ending for his native county, watched his adopted players being acclaimed at the end by their followers, streaming in from all sides in scenes of shameless rapture.
The result may mark a significant turning point for Dublin hurling after some trying years.
In the more immediate term it takes them to the preliminary quarter-finals of the All-Ireland against the McDonagh Cup winners, Laois or Westmeath, and after an early departure last year it is an achievement to be proud of.
They went in as underdogs after Galway's stirring victory in Kilkenny the weekend before, but those in blue worked themselves to a standstill and never gave up. And from there the hurling followed.
The goals were crucial, with Eamonn Dillon getting the first in the 29th minute to open a three-point lead that Galway almost contemptuously blasted away with four points in the run-in to the interval, the visitors leading 0-12 to 1-8 at the break.
Dublin took only a minute to fire home their second goal when the game restarted, the home team playing with a freshening breeze.
Sean Moran hit a penalty with terrific conviction after Dillon played in Crummey, who was fouled by Daithí Burke.
Galway brought on Joe Canning for his first appearance since an untimely injury in the league semi-finals in March and he scored two points from his first two touches, putting the Tribesmen back in front. But Dublin kept plugging away, the score constantly changing hands.
"I am not here to beat Galway," said Kenny afterwards when asked if the outcome was bittersweet. "I am six years now working in Dublin hurling. My job is to get the best out of the guys, that was my only focus."
This year the Leinster Championship has stolen the show, with Kilkenny and Wexford playing a thrilling draw on Saturday evening, and Galway becoming the first team in 70 years to defeat Kilkenny on their home soil the previous weekend after an absorbing match.
"I was just talking to some of the Galway people coming off there," said Kenny. "They were very disappointed, but they said what a game of hurling, what an atmosphere, and what a night."
Galway never quit and had they managed to survive, or had the other match gone their way, it looked like they were going to improve as the year wore on, especially with Canning back.
In the first-half they hit more wides than was acceptable and lost Conor Whelan to injury when he looked like he might be about to have a big game. But Dublin had massive contributions all over the field.
A special glass must be raised to Conal Keaney, 37 in September, who was exceptional and rebuffed age and the laws of human physiology.
He stayed the distance, scored three points, and who would have thought that a performance of that magnitude could be in him.
"Yeah, he was super," said Kenny when invited to judge, but he noted the work of Danny Sutcliffe on the other wing, both men being target-points for Dublin puck-outs, and also valuable moments from Cian Boland and Fergal Whitely when introduced, scoring the point right after Crummey's goal that sent Parnell Park into ecstasy.
Oisín O'Rorke started - a puzzle for many that it took this long - and in the absence of regular free-takers Paul Ryan and David Treacy, both injured, his shooting on the placed ball was unerring, while chipping in with two from play.
Eamonn Dillon had perhaps his best match in a Dublin shirt, a ball of energy, the goal coming when he picked up possession and ran at Galway before batting past Colm Callanan.
The most telling score came from Crummey, with the third goal three minutes from the end of normal time after Davy Glennon had cancelled a short-lived Dublin lead. He found the corner of the net and by then Dublin's dander was rising to such a point that keeper Alan Nolan joined in the scoring a few minutes earlier with a shot from the next parish.
All the more commendably, Dublin had to deal with the loss of full-back Eoghan O'Donnell to injury after 14 minutes.
"I think these Dublin players are tired of moral victories," said Kenny. "I thought it was a fantastic game of hurling."
That it most certainly was.