Late Hayes burst sees galway draw first blood
First blood to Galway, but the wounds inflicted are no more than skin deep.
Not much more than 500 people bothered to surface at Pearse Stadium where both sides gave due respect to the fixture without emptying everything in advance of their league final meeting in two weeks' time.
The home side won thanks to a late flourish, engineered chiefly by Damien Hayes who came off the bench to plunder 1-1 and give a defence already reeling from Niall Healy's resurgent form -- he scored 2-9 -- a torrid time.
A seven-point cushion probably distorts the balance of play as Denis Walsh readily acknowledged afterwards. Cork were much more competitive than that. If you came to Salthill looking for suspense, drama and tension, however, then you were always likely to be disappointed.
But if you're a student of form and squad movements, as in who should be ahead of who and where, then there were a few decent indicators.
For starters John McIntyre will have to ponder the structure of his full-back line ahead of their Thurles rematch after Ollie Canning delivered one of those casually effortless displays of class he's so capable of that ensures his position as probably the best reader of the play in recent times.
Canning, Fergal Moore, Damien Joyce. Three into two? Over to you John!
It may be too soon for Adrian Cullinane after his successful return yesterday to the half-back line. But again he was another welcome poser into the mix for a Galway squad that looks in rude health right now.
For Cork, William Egan stuck his hand up for more business down the line with a fine show that incorporated two points and Walsh also singled out Cian McCarthy -- son of Teddy and one of the players to grow through Gerald McCarthy's brief 2009 academy -- for praise afterwards.
They'll be disappointed to lose their unbeaten league record and hand Galway whatever little momentum there was on offer going into a league final.
But, as McIntyre vividly observed, Cork in Thurles and Cork in Pearse Stadium with two thirds of a team missing is "chalk and cheese."
Actually it was more than two thirds of a team once a line was drawn through the names of Brian Murphy and Jerry O'Connor beforehand due to injury.
Only Sean Og O hAilpin, Ben O'Connor and captain Kieran Murphy can lay claim to any degree of permanency on the team. Michael Cussen and/or Aisake O hAilpin will fill another berth, but all the rest can do is hope.
Early on their intent seemed greater as they built a four-point lead, 1-6 to 1-2, as Luke O'Farrell and Healy traded opportunist goals at either end.
But Galway, through the sublime footwork of Canning and the power of John Lee and Conor Dervan across their half-back line, gradually got a foothold, allowing Niall Hayes and Healy to make headway at the other end. One of Healy's early points was from a penalty.
The Craughwell man has become a project of the management who are urging him to be more direct in his play. "He's one of the more maligned players in the county," said McIntyre.
"We've been doing a lot of work with Niall, telling him to take on his man and put the head down instead of twisting and turning and going away from the posts and in fairness he ran at the Cork defence today and had an excellent game."
Five of his points were from frees, ensuring that the line of free-takers Galway now have at their disposal lengthens. McIntyre never doubted the authenticity of the game and to the credit of the players they didn't allow it to descend into farce at any stage.
"Any game you play is worth winning," reflected McIntyre. "I saw no benefit in losing that game today. People will always console you when you lose a game that it doesn't cost you a championship or a league.
"The Galway players have developed a winning mentality during the league. I thought we might have pulled away early in the second half, but then Cork got a goal and went a point up and we had to go and win the game a second time."
He's particularly pleased with the reaction since the collapse to Tipperary last month, which left Galway looking badly exposed to old failings again.
But they have steeled themselves well since then and, even when this game threatened to drift on them in the opening half, they smartened themselves and by the break they led by 1-8 to 1-7.
They were edging clear midway through the second half when Murphy snapped on a loose ball in the Galway goalmouth off a Cussen delivery and prodded a timely goal to level at 2-10 to 1-13. Egan's second point roused Galway from their comfort and they outscored the visitors by 2-4 to 0-2 in the closing 20 minutes, with Hayes setting up Healy for the all-important second goal on 65 minutes to push them three points clear.
Walsh admitted disappointment to losing the unbeaten record and felt Cork should have quarried more from the first half.
"We had decent control of it at times. There wasn't much in it," he said. "We should have been slightly more ahead at half-time. Galway put in a few bigger physical fellas that we weren't just able to match at the bitter end." McIntyre took the baton on the debate about the evening throw-in for the league final, suggesting that managers "aren't listened to up in Croke Park".
"Does it matter?" he replied when asked on his views of the throw-in time.
"Look it, if the match is on at midnight in Madagascar, Galway will be there. We're only thinking about supporters and especially parents with young children.
"The GAA has to stand behind its own product and I think they have run scared on this one. I have no doubt that no matter how many people there are in Thurles in a fortnight's time at 7.0, there would be twice as many there at 3.30."
Scorers -- Galway: N Healy 2-9 (0-5f, 1-0 pen), D Hayes 1-1, N Hayes, F Coone 0-2 each, C Dervan (f), N Cahalan, A Callanan 0-1 each. Cork: B O'Connor 0-5 (0-4f), K Murphy 1-1, L O'Farrell 1-0, M Cussen, W Egan 0-2 each, C McCarthy, G Callanan, F O'Leary 0-1 each.
Galway -- J Skehill; P Holland, E McEntee, O Canning; J Lee, C Dervan, A Cullinane; E Lynch, N Cahalan; A Callanan, K Hayes, A Smith; N Hayes, F Coone, N Healy. Subs: D Barry for Cullinane (h-t), K Hynes for Callanan (52), D Hayes for N Hayes (58), T Og Regan for Dervan (63), J Gantley for K Hayes (66).
Cork -- A Nash; K Hartnett, D Cunningham, C O'Sullivan; M Breathnach, S Og O hAilpin, R Ryan; G Callanan, W Egan; C McCarthy, K Murphy, B O'Connor; F O'Leary, M Cussen, L O'Farrell. Subs: S Murphy for Hartnett (h-t), M O'Sullivan for O'Leary (51), P O'Sullivan for O'Farrell (51), A O'hAilpin for McCarthy (64), L McLoughlin (67).
Ref -- D Richardson (Limerick).