Tribesmen run rings around tired Dubs to spoil Kenny's return
Galway 0-20 Dublin 1-11
This was not the homecoming that Mattie Kenny had hoped for. Based on his post-match comments about Dublin's leg-weary student cohort, it might well have been the one he feared.
In hurling, some six-point margins are a fallacy, revealing nothing about the ferocity or close-fought nature of the exchanges. And then you've a game like yesterday's, watched by 6,983 less-than-riveted Pearse Stadium patrons.
Most of them had come to spy Galway's reaction to their shock stalemate in Carlow. Most of them headed for home satisfied with a routine job finished with clinical efficiency against opponents who seldom laid a glove on their hosts.
A wind-assisted Galway led by 0-13 to 1-4 at the midpoint and, in truth, Danny Sutcliffe's 15th-minute goal masked what had been a bigger gulf than six points.
When half-time sub Donal Burke pointed inside 15 seconds of the restart, you waited for the Dublin comeback. And kept waiting.
Galway nailed the next three points - a sharp Davy Glennon effort and a brace of Joe Canning frees - and the visitors never edged closer than six points thereafter.
"No disrespect to Carlow, that was a game where we felt we missed a lot of chances early on," said Micheál Donoghue afterwards.
"You are always looking for a response from these players. We got that and a bit today.
"We are still not going to get carried away," the Galway manager cautioned. "We have used a lot of lads in the league. We will continue to do that until we get a lot of our bigger boys back. Overall quite content."
Not so content was his opposite number.
"A lot of these guys have played an awful lot of Fitzgibbon games," Kenny pointed out. "We talked about it a few weeks ago, the load that is on them. I'm not making any excuses, but Galway looked that bit sharper. They were more top-of-the-ground and we looked leggy all across the field."
The Dublin boss has a point. Five of his team here had started for DCU in their extra-time semi-final defeat to UCC last Tuesday.
Burke also started that game only to come off with a tweaked hamstring. He had amassed 1-10 from play over the previous three halves of Division 1B hurling. "We thought there might be 20 or 30 minutes in him," Kenny explained.
In his starting absence, a toothless Dublin attack were suffocated by a Galway defence where Ronan Burke and Aidan Harte impressed from the get-go, while Padraic Mannion and the returning Gearóid McInerney grew ever stronger.
Burke proved a more than able full-back deputy for his four-in-a-row All Star brother Daithí, currently club-tied with the Corofin footballers.
But it wasn't merely in one-to-one contact that Galway dominated. They won the overwhelming majority of 'rucks' - a tell-tale sign of their greater intensity and hunger.
On the offensive, meanwhile, they had seven different point-scorers from play in the first half alone. Canning, who wasn't among them, covered huge ground in an influential shift and was flawless from frees (nailing 0-8 from all ranges) until the very last play when he went for the green-flag jackpot from a 20m free and blazed wide.
Galway's best 'attacker' was actually a midfielder: Cathal Mannion gave further evidence of flourishing in a deeper role with an effortless four points from distance.
Contrast this with Dublin's mostly toothless efforts. Oisín O'Rorke fared reasonably off limited first-half possession, notably when he burned Jack Grealish in the right corner before his inviting hand-pass was batted to the net by the inrushing Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe apart, though, lively midfielder Riain McBride and Eamon Dillon were their only starters to score from play. Two forwards, John Hetherton and Fergal Whitely, were hauled off inside 26 minutes and Kenny had emptied his bench by the 49th minute.
"When you come down to places like Pearse Stadium, against a quality team like Galway, then you'll know where you're at and you're not in any false position," Kenny noted.
Now he knows.
As for Galway, they are getting stronger as spring unfolds. Donoghue started six of the team that lost to Limerick last August, but a question mark remains over another of his All-Ireland '15', Joseph Cooney.
"When we were out on the Australia trip, he stayed out there. That was all planned," his manager explained. "I don't know will he be back. We'll have a conversation in the next few weeks with him."
Scorers - Galway: J Canning 0-8f, C Mannion 0-4, S Bleahene 0-2, A Harte, S Loftus, N Burke, C Whelan, J Flynn, D Glennon 0-1 each. Dublin: R McBride (1 sideline cut), D Treacy (1 '65', 2f) 0-3 each, D Sutcliffe 1-0, E Dillon 0-2, J Hetherton (f), D Burke, S Moran (f) 0-1 each.
Galway - F Flannery 7; J Grealish 6, R Burke 8, A Harte 8; K Hussey 7, P Mannion 7, G McInerney 7; C Mannion 8, S Loftus 7; N Burke 6, J Canning 8, C Whelan 6; S Bleahene 7, J Flynn 6, D Glennon 7. Subs: T Monaghan 6 for Glennon (inj 55), P Killeen for Hussey (67), K Cooney for Flynn (69), S Kilduff for Loftus (73), J Mannion for Bleahene (73).
Dublin - A Nolan 6; C O'Callaghan 6, E O'Donnell 7, P Smyth 7; C Crummey 6, S Moran 6, S Barrett 6; D O'Connell 5, R McBride 7; J Malone 6, J Hetherton 5, F Whitely 5; D Sutcliffe 6, E Dillon 7, O O'Rorke 6. Subs: D Treacy 6 for Whitely (21), L Rushe 6 for Hetherton (26), D Burke 6 for O'Connell (ht), D Gray 6 for O'Callaghan (inj 38), S Treacy 6 for O'Rorke (49).
Ref - J Owens (Wexford).