Regan inspires Galway comeback to land silverware
Galway 1-22 Dublin 1-20 - Walsh Cup semi-final
Spring has barely sprung itself out of the hammock and already the gleam of newly-acquired silverware is brightening up the outlook of the Galway hurlers.
That's not a bad return for the early weeks of 2015 with a squad limited by injuries to big name players as Anthony Cunningham's men now face up to fresh challenges, starting with a tasty opener against Clare at Pearse Stadium in the league next Sunday.
On Saturday night, the Tribesmen left behind a Dublin side that was a little more disappointed with the outcome of a closely contested match than they would like to admit.
A new manager, new competition for places, and playing in the plush surrounds of Croke Park in a final offered every incentive to show off a bit and lay down a bit of a marker on Galway, who the Dubs will play in league and championship. In those circumstances, losing a seven-point lead and being overhauled at the finish line must, and probably should, leave a slightly queasy feeling in the stomach for the Dublin players.
No matter that it was 'only' the Walsh Cup. The game was there to be won - as was the trophy. Dublin started brightly and imposed themselves on their opponents in the first half, but Galway showed grit and defiance to turn the match in their favour at the death.
Corner-forward James Regan took the honours as Man of the Match with his 1-4 contribution, and especially for the 68th minute goal, followed by a point shortly afterwards which clinched the victory.
Galway also had marksman Jason Flynn to thank for keeping them in the game with the 11 points he scored, all from frees, from a variety of distances, throughout the game.
Afterwards, manager Anthony Cunningham gave his perspective on the Walsh Cup experience. "Look, it's a stepping stone. It's a game at Croke Park, it's a game against Dublin. It was our first real test for the year in getting preparation time for the match against Clare next Sunday," reasoned the Galway boss.
"We were a bit disappointed there because we conceded a goal and a couple of points when we were level pegging with Dublin, and that was disappointing half way through the first half.
"But we stuck with it and we got the break there with the goal.
"That's what we expect from the likes of James Regan because he's a very talented hurler and we expect to see more from these players because there's opportunities on this team."
Regan was bright and busy throughout the match, but he profited from some confusion in the centre of the Dublin defence as he ran on to a long delivery by Jason Flynn.
The Galway man got a touch to flick the ball clear of two defenders, and Dublin goalie Alan Nolan had to make the decision to go at Regan or stay closer to his goal line.
In the fraction of a second it took to make up his mind, Regan had got into pole position, and flicked the sliotair past Nolan, before kicking it into the net.
In that moment Galway went from being level at 0-21 to Dublin's 1-18, to grabbing a three point lead with a couple of minutes left to play.
Dublin desperately tried to summon a rally, and substitute Danny Sutcliffe fired over two points, only to see Regan snatch the insurance point in injury-time.
Dublin manager Ger Cunningham has much to ponder as he prepares his team for the visit of All-Ireland finalists Tipperary to Parnell Park on Sunday. "Any time you lose in Croke Park, you're disappointed," said the former Cork goalkeeper. "It was a final and like any match, you want to win.
"We mixed the very good with some not so good, and there are things we need to work on.
"But overall, taking everything into consideration, there are still a lot of positives to be taken out of it. We've tried to find a few new players and I think we've found a few.
"The league is obviously going to be the focus going forward, irrespective of this result. We've got plenty to work on."
Dublin had listed David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan in the starting line-up in the programme, but the experienced sharpshooter's slight hamstring injury meant that Ryan O'Dwyer slotted in at number 13.
With the assured Paul Ryan mixing power, class and accuracy from placed balls for a tally of 0-6 (five from frees) in the first half, and a Liam Rushe goal after 18 minutes, the Dubs deservedly led by 1-7 to 0-3 midway through the half.
Galway, however, had their own sniper on duty. Jason Flynn's marksmanship from placed balls was exemplary.
The corner-forward from the Tommie Larkins club had seven points, all from frees, on his personal tally in the first half and went on to reach 0-11 by the end of the match.
Flynn was the main reason that Galway entered the half-time break only three points adrift on a 1-12 to 0-12 scoreline.
"Jason has always been a prolific scorer at under age, absolutely outstanding, and he's a tremendous striker, so he's one for the future," said Cunningham.
Scorers: Galway: J Flynn 0-11 (11f), J Regan 1-4, D Higgins 0-2, P Brehony 0-1, J Cooney 0-1, B Molloy 0-1, P Mannion 0-1, C Flynn 0-1. Dublin: P Ryan 0-8 (6f), L Rushe 1-0, S Stapleton 0-2, J Boland 0-2, D Sutcliffe 0-2, M Schutte 0-2, P Kelly 0-1, B Quinn 0-1, S Barrett 0-1, C Boland 0-1.
Galway: C Callanan; R Burke, F Moore, P Mannion; J Coen, D Collins, G McInerney; J Cooney, E Burke; D Higgins, J Glynn, P Brehony; J Regan, J Flynn, B Molloy. Subs: C Flynn for E Burke (32), I Tannian for Molloy (53), P Killeen for Higgins (64), G Kelly for Brehony (70).
Dublin: A Nolan; S Durkin, P Schutte, S Barrett; S Lambert, P Kelly, C Crummey; J Boland, B Quinn; C Keaney, S Stapleton, M Schutte; R O'Dwyer, L Rushe, P Ryan. Subs: E Dillon for O'Dwyer (36), C Boland for Stapleton (56), D Sutcliffe for Quinn (56), D Plunkett for J Boland (64).
Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).