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Galway enjoy first Championship win over Kerry for 53 years

STANDFIRST

Patrick Sweeney scores the injury-time goal which put the seal on Galway's win over Kerry at Croke Park Picture by Philip Walsh
John Keane at Croke Park

All-Ireland SFC Quarter-final, Group One

Galway 1-13 Kerry 1-10

GALWAY moved into contention as the prime challengers to Dublin as they pulled away to score their first Championship win over Kerry in 53 years.

The standard of the match was poor throughout as Kerry struggled to break down Galway’s possession game but Kevin Walsh's side always held an edge as they won their first Championship game at Croke Park since winning the 2001 All-Ireland final.

The Galway supporters in the crowd of 30,740 for the double-header will not be concerned about the quality of the entertainment as they finally defeated the Kingdom for the first time since the 1966 All-Ireland final.

Galway manager Kevin Walsh said they will quickly turn their attention to next Sunday’s trip to Newbridge to take on Kildare.

“It’s a massive win for us. The change of conditions from what we have had over the last two months made it difficult but you might call it nervousness, you might call it smartness or you might call it people learning things.

“You have to adapt to a game as you see in front of you, it might not be pretty but you’ve got to keep yourself in there. The work ethic was very high when it came down to it in the second half and it’s a particularly big win for us.

“It gives us a chance, now it’s Newbridge next week and that’s the way it is. One game isn’t equal to three but we’ll take the experience onboard.”

Walsh said that the broken leg suffered by Paul Conroy was a huge blow but he’s confident the 2007 All-Ireland minor-winning captain will bounce back.

“Paul is a big warrior for us but he’ll be able bounce back, our thoughts are with him at the moment but we’ll certainly take care of him. He’ll be pushing us on from the sidelines if that’s the case,” added Walsh.

Disappointed Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice said they have little time to dwell on the defeat as they need to prepare for the trip to Monaghan next week.

“We didn’t turn up. Right from the off we looked to be a yard off the pace today for whatever reason and the better team won.

“They won all the battles and I think at the end the goal put some bit of respectability on the score but no, we just weren’t good enough today.

“I think you’ve to give credit to Galway. I mean we knew that it was going to be a huge jump from the Munster Championship.

“We weren’t getting carried away with the Munster Championship results. We knew we played well but that there was more there at the same time.

“Same as we won’t get carried away with this. We were well off it today but we’re still in the Championship.

“We’ve a tough game now next weekend up in Clones and we’re going up there, we’re fighting for our lives and we’ll have to bring everything we have,” he said.

The sides were level five times in the opening half but Galway went in leading by 0-6 to 0-5 at the end of a poor first period which produced little good football.

Both teams struggled in the wet and dank conditions with constant handling mistakes being compounded by poor shooting.

By half-time Galway had hit eight wides and Kerry were guilty of six, with neither side managing to get on top for any considerable period.

There were eight minutes of added time at the end of the opening half after a lengthy delay following a serious injury to Paul Conroy after the Galway midfielder and Kerry’s Sean O’Shea collided heavily after they slid into each other on the greasy surface.

Conroy suffered a broken leg in the collision and his season is now over after soldiering for so long when Galway were not contenders.

Peter Cooke came in to replace the experienced Galway player just a couple of moments after Conroy had put the Tribesmen ahead for the first time when he pointed after 18 minutes to lead by 0-3 to 0-2.

By then both sides had kicked bad wides but the Kingdom got the better start when Paul Geaney set Kevin McCarthy up for the opening score after three minutes.

Shane Walsh finally got Galway off the mark after 13 minutes with a free before Kerry’s David Clifford and the equally impressive Ian Burke traded points.

Clifford got his second point after 31 minutes following the lengthy delay when Conroy was injured before Kerry’s James O’Donoghue was booked for a sliding tackle on Cooke.

Shane Murphy edged the Munster champions back in front in stoppage time but Damien Comer, quiet until then, flashed over a point after Galway went direct for a change.

Geaney responded to put the Kingdom back in front but Galway finished the half strongly with Walsh pointing his second free before a move which started with an interception from corner-back Eoghan Kerin finished at the other end with a good point from Burke after a sublime pass from Comer.

Kerin was one of two late changes before the start with Michael Daly, son of former Galway player Val, also coming in, while Killian Young made a welcome return to the heart of the Kerry defence in their only late change.

Geaney tied up the game within a minute of the restart before Sean Kelly edged Galway back in front as the tempo of the game picked up a bit.

Stephen O’Brien tied the sides for seventh time and they were level again when Walsh and Clifford exchanged points.

Walsh’s first effort from play, a neat effort with his left foot, restored Galway’s lead after 55 minutes and shortly afterwards corner-back Declan Kyne went forward and put two points between the sides for the first time in the match after 56 minutes.

Kerry suffered a big blow when Killian Young was given a straight red card after he was spotted off the ball striking Ian Burke after 59 minutes.

Clifford continued to be Kerry’s only real threat up front and his fourth point of the game cut the gap again to a point.

But it was then that Galway took over and their substitutes’ bench proved stronger with Adrian Varley announcing his arrival with the first of two points in a row to goal in front and then Walsh pointed a free to go four ahead approaching stoppage time.

Galway wrapped up the issue in the 74th minute when Walsh did the groundwork and sub Patrick Sweeney, at the second attempt, blasted to the net.

Clifford helped cut the margin of the defeat — which could yet be important given that points difference will be used if teams finish level — with a point from a free and then struck for a goal in the dying moments of the contest.

Galway: R Lavelle; D Kyne (0-1), SA O Ceallaigh, E Kerin; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, J Heaney; P Conroy (0-1), T Flynn; E Brannigan, M Daly, S Kelly (0-1); I Burke (0-2, 0-1 free), D Comer (0-1), S Walsh (0-5, 0-4 frees).

Substitutes: P Cooke for Conroy (23 mins), A Varley (0-2) for Daly (55 mins), G O’Donnell for Bradshaw (64 mins), P Sweeney (1-0) for Comer (65 mins), F Burke for I Burke (76 mins).

Red card: E Kerin (74 mins)

Black card: T Flynn (74 mins)

Yellow cards: M Daly (42 mins), E Kerin (53 & 74 mins), P Sweeney (70 mins).

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