Sport Hurling

Sunday 18 February 2018

Galway silence critics with ruthless Banner dismissal

GALWAY 4-25 CLARE 0-20
All-Ireland SHC Qualifier

Galway's Joe Canning celebrates after scoring his side's third goal in the convincing victory over Clare in last night's All-Ireland SHC qualifier in Pearse Stadium. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Galway's Joe Canning celebrates after scoring his side's third goal in the convincing victory over Clare in last night's All-Ireland SHC qualifier in Pearse Stadium. Photo: Stephen McCarthy

All-Ireland SHC Qualifier

AN unacceptably timid display against Dublin a fortnight ago had challenged Galway to come out fighting at Salthill last night and to some extent they gave a performance that was required of them.

But Clare's resistance needs to be factored into the equation; their charity in conceding space and goals was exceedingly generous and followed a pattern that has hobbled them all year. They finished with 14 men after James McInerney was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Joe Canning early in the second half, but by then they were already in deep trouble, trailing by 10 points. This was the third year in succession they flopped in the qualifiers.

But Galway won't dwell too long on their opponents' deficiencies. After a chorus of pleas from former servants for a demonstration of some hurling back-bone fell on deaf ears in Tullamore, last night offered them a second shot at redemption, and a final one. Defeat would almost certainly have signalled the end of John McIntyre's three-year reign. Under the circumstances, the evening was fairly stress-free.

Galway looked for improvements from their marquee players and got them and the changes to the team also had the desired effect -- five in all. Canning, after a display two weeks ago that was riddled with error and injudicious choices, rediscovered the form we have become more accustomed to.

A long spell out with injury can be used in mitigation for the Dublin game, but Canning will have found little solace in that; he has set high standards and he would have travelled to Salthill last night with little on his mind but restoring his reputation.

He missed his first free but soon settled and claimed one of the three first-half goals that gave them a commanding 3-13 to 0-12 interval lead after playing with the breeze. At the close of scoring he had 1-9, including a trademark line ball and a goal that married brute force and technique.

Galway went into the match unsure of themselves, five changes reflecting a high level of indecision and malfunction uncommon to serious Championship bidders. How much they have learned is uncertain as they were not severely tested, but at least they are back in a winning groove.

Damien Hayes shook off his own indifferent form and scored 1-3 in the first half, when Galway laid the foundations of their victory. Before the start Iarla Tannian moved in to full-forward, in an exchange with Canning, but soon Canning was playing in a two-man inside line with Hayes and haunting the Clare backs. Canning almost had a goal inside two minutes, racing on to a Hayes handpass, before striking off the hurl against the underside of the crossbar.

Clare's defence was breached in the seventh minute when a speculative ball from David Burke eluded Conor Cooney and Hayes raced on to the ball and struck a powerful shot past Philly Brennan. Five minutes later they scored a second. Hayes, buzzing with energy, found Tannian whose shot came off the butt of the far post; Ger Farragher drove the rebound home. Canning chipped in with points from a free and play to open up a 2-4 to 0-1 lead approaching the quarter-hour mark.

In an effort to close down the space being created, Clare brought Nicky O'Connell back to act as a sweeper in front of their full-back line. They did manage to settle and in one spell of play scored three points to Galway's one, but the goals kept them at arm's length. Canning grew into the game and Hayes hit a wonderful score over his shoulder as Clare stayed plugging away, not allowing Galway completely out of sight.

Clare's hopes dipped with a third concession nearing half time. Canning found some room on the right, powered past O'Connell and then warded off the attentions of Cian Dillon before driving powerfully past Brennan. It was audacious, but an unflattering depiction of Clare's defensive mettle. By then they were 10 points adrift. It could have been worse: Joe Gantley caught an Andy Smith delivery behind the Clare back line, but Brennan smothered the shot. Canning nailed the '65' and Galway, 3-13 to 0-12 ahead, looked almost there with the second half still to play.

The game was put beyond Clare's reach, effectively, when McInerney was sent off after the interval. Alan Kerins sealed their fate with a fourth Galway goal in the 53rd minute and any chances of a Clare recovery were destroyed. Galway now eagerly await today's draw for the next phase.

Scorers -- Galway: J Canning 1-9 (0-3f, 0-1 '65'), G Farragher 1-4, D Hayes 1-3, A Kerins 1-2, I Tannian, J Gantley 0-2 each, D Burke, A Smith, J Regan 0-1 each. Clare: N O'Connell 0-6 (0-4f, 0-1 '65'), C McGrath 0-5 (0-3f), C Morey 0-3, J Conlon 0-2, F Lynch, J Clancy, C McInerney, L Markham 0-1 each

Galway: J Skehill; F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Collins; D Barry, T Og Regan, A Cullinane; D Burke, A Smith; J Gantley, G Farragher, I Tannian; D Hayes (Capt), J Canning, A Kerins. Subs: C Donnellan for Tannian (57), B Daly for Burke (65), J Regan for Gantley (66), A Harte for Farragher (67), K Hynes for Cullinane (70)

Clare: P Brennan; P Vaughan, C Dillon, C Cooney; P O'Connor, P Donnellan, J McInerney; N O'Connell, J Clancy; J Conlon, F Lynch, D McMahon; C McInerney, C Morey, C McGrath. Subs: B Bugler for Vaughan (h-t), L Markam for Clancy (43), S Collins for F Lynch (48), C O'Donovan for McMahon (57), G Quinn for Donnellan (63)

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)

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