Thursday 22 February 2018

Ref quick on the draw as Kerry squander huge lead


GALWAY 0-14 KERRY 0-14 THE Galway and Kerry players will wake up this morning, riding high on waves of relief. Their Bank of Ireland All-Ireland dream is still alive after flirting shamelessly with disaster at various stages in a final which left so many unanswered questions that a replay was by far the most satisfactory option.

So then, it's back to Croke Park for the second instalment next Saturday week, with Wexford referee, Brian White taking over from Pat McEnaney who saw fit to play just 40 seconds of injury-time at the end of a second half. He would have been perfectly justified to add on two more minutes but obviously felt that, in the circumstances, the issue was best left to another day.

Not that Galway or Kerry were complaining. Instead, they were delighted to have got a second chance after combining the mediocre with the masterly in a confusing mix which will give them plenty to dwell on when they return to the training grounds tomorrow night.

Kerry will reflect ruefully on how they allowed Galway to course them up the mountain when it looked after 25 minutes as if they were ready to place the green and gold flag on the summit while their edgy opponents were still map-reading in the foothills. It was science at its sweetest for Kerry in that gloriously inventive opening period as the points flowed in from all angles and distances.


While Kerry will regret their failure to safeguard their initial investment, Galway will feel that, having constructed a brilliant comeback, they should have pressed on and won the game in the closing quarter.

They had the chances too but were let down by their finishing, while some poor decision-making in good attacking positions will also be brought to their attention by manager John O'Mahony over the coming days.

He will also want to know how - and why - they were so sluggish in the opening 25 minutes. While Kerry busied themselves with clever inter-passing, underlined by a solid work ethic, Galway were remote and insecure.

They were losing out in the primary battles for possession while their reaction times to the breaking ball were incredibly slow. It was totally out of character for them as they are usually very alert when the ball is spraying around.

Darragh Ó Sé and Donal Daly were comfortably in control at midfield where Galway teenager Joe Bergin found it hard to switch on to the intensely demanding texture of the game. He is a fine young talent, but things passed him by yesterday until he was rescued from his misery after 19 minutes when Kevin Walsh came on.

Walsh, the wise old head on big, powerful shoulders, brought about an immediate improvement. But with Kerry nursing an 0-8 to 0-1 lead after 25 minutes, it looked as if it would take a lot more than a degree of midfield stability to turn things around for Galway.

Mike Frank Russell and John Crowley were asking very awkward questions of corner-backs, Ray Silke and Tomás Meehan. And with Galway's defensive error rate way above the usual average, Kerry's graph line was pointing upwards in a steep curve.

Galway, who got their first point in the ninth minute, didn't score again until the 26t,h but it was to prove deeply significant as it launched a rescue programme which ultimately saved them.

Team captain Padraic Joyce was at the heart of the comeback, having left his full-forward berth and his tussle with Seamus Moynihan to preside at centre-forward. It was a match-saving move by John O'Mahony.

With Walsh breaking Kerry's dominance at midfield and his partner, Sean Ó Domhnaill improving, Joyce became the axis around which Galway's revival revolved. Suddenly, the Galway attack found themselves getting some decent possession and with Michael Donnellan driving at the defence with typical single-mindedness, Kerry began to concede frees which Joyce and Niall Finnegan pointed consistently.

By half-time, Galway were back on line. They trailed by 0-10 to 0-7 but they had won the last nine minutes by 0-6 to 0-2 and were looking a whole lot more comfortable. Earlier, it appeared as if their entire strategy had been wiped from the memory disc but once they re-drafted it, Kerry were facing an altogether different proposition.


Galway fans in the 63,349 crowd were hoping that the side would retain their momentum early in the second half, but it was Kerry who sprung from the starting blocks, firing over two points by Dara Ó Cinnéide and Darragh Ó Sé, who cut in along the endline before punching the ball over the bar.

It was the type of surge Kerry were expecting from him, but he retreated back into his shell afterwards, allowing Galway to win lots of good ball around midfield.

Galway sent on Richie Fahy for Ray Silke in defence, while John Donnellan replaced Tommy Joyce in attack. Both moves worked. Fahy tightened things up considerably while Donnellan added power up front.

A huge roar went up from the Kerry fans when super-sub Maurice Fitzgerald came on for John Crowley in the 48th minute, but his impact was more apparent than real. He went in at corner-forward but with the supply lines becoming increasingly clogged, he got few scoring chances. Tomás Meehan stuck close to him while, in the other corner, Richie Fahy was making life hard for Russell.

When Padraic Joyce pointed a free in the 49th minute to cut the gap to a single point, it really did look as if Galway would sweep past Kerry and onto the podium to collect their ninth All-Ireland senior crown.

Amazingly, the remaining 21 minutes produced just three points. Ó Cinnéide's point from a free was Kerry's only score in the last 27 minutes while Galway got in for two, from John Donnellan (60 minutes) and the equaliser from the trusted boot of Padraic Joyce in the 66th minute.

Galway missed a few excellent point chances in the closing ten minutes but the last real opening of the day fell to Kerry sub Denis O'Dwyer. He got a clear sight on goal but his shot - for what would have been the winning point - tailed left and wide and seconds later the referee blew the final whistle.


Judging by the players' post-match disposition, it seems that Galway believed that they had more reason to be thankful for a second chance. That's understandable as they never led and had to haul back a seven points lead. Kerry led for 63 minutes and will feel that they should have not have surrendered such a massive advantage, especially when they managed to keep their goal intact.

But, just as they had done against Cork in the Munster semi-final, they failed to build on their early superiority. They survived against Cork but found Galway's brand of defiance more difficult to cope with and could easily have lost out in the end.

The first draw in an All-Ireland final since Mayo v Meath in 1996 was the last thing Irish team manager, Brian McEniff wanted. He will have to plan without the Kerry and Galway players for the first International Rules test against Australia which will be played just 24 hours after the replay.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Padraic Jcyce (Galway)

SCORERS - Galway: P Joyce 0-6 (6f), N Finnegan 0-3 (2f), D Savage 0-2, T Joyce, K Walsh, J Donnellan 0-1 each. Kerry: D Ó Cinnéide 0-4 (3f), M F Russell 0-3, L Hassett, J Crowley, N Kennelly 0-2 each, D Ó Sé 0-1.

GALWAY - M McNamara; T Meehan, G Fahy, R Silke; D Meehan, J Divilly, S Óg de Paor; S Ó Domhnaill, J Bergin; P Clancy, T Joyce, M Donnellan; D Savage, P Joyce, N Finnegan. Subs: K Walsh for Bergin (19), R Fahy for Silke (40), J Donnellan for T Joyce (49).

KERRY - D O'Keeffe; M Hassett, S Moynihan, M McCarthy; T Ó Sé, E Fitzmaurice, T O'Sullivan; D Ó Sé, D Daly; A MacGearailt, L Hassett, N Kennelly; M F Russell, D Ó Cinnéide, J Crowley. Subs: M Fitzgerald for Crowley (48), D Dwyer for Kennelly (59).

REF - P McEnaney (Monaghan)

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