Galway primed to take on Dublin in Division One final
Allianz National Football League Division One final: Dublin v Galway (tomorrow, Croke Park, 4pm, live on TG4)
DUBLIN have gone two games without a win which, by their all-conquering standards, constitutes a crisis and the reigning All-Ireland champions will be determined to end what is, relatively speaking, a poor run in tomorrow's top flight decider against new kids on the block Galway.
After five straight wins in Division One, the Dubs go into the final having drawn with the Tribesmen and lost at home to Monaghan last weekend and a backlash in blue is expected tomorrow.
Despite the scoring hauls of Dean Rock (1-25) and Ciaran Kilkenny (2-16 from play), Dublin have looked short of their best at times during this League campaign. Of course, it's always a long season for the Dubs so that is understandable but the creative spark that Diarmuid Connolly provides has been missing.
There are rumours that the St Vincent's playmaker may have left Jim Gavin's panel. The Dublin manager stressed “at the moment we are giving Diarmuid a rest” after the draw with Galway but there are now stories that he could hook up with the hurlers under Pat Gilroy.
Even without Connolly, Dublin are the ultimate test for Galway – who have dropped just one point on their triumphant return to Division One – and Kevin Walsh's side will need to pass it to prove that they now deserve to be considered as a genuine Championship force.
Captain Damien Comer says the Tribesmen are looking forward to matching themselves against the best team in the land.
“We know that we have a big summer of football ahead of us, but for this time of year, to be in a League final against Dublin really is the place to be,” said the Annaghdown clubman.
“There is absolutely no dispute about Dublin being the top teams in the country - they've proven that time and time again over the last few years - but we're really looking forward to getting a crack at them. We couldn't ask for anything more.”
Some of the credit for Galway's form this year has gone to Galbally native Paddy Tally and rightly so. St Mary's manager Tally has made a positive impact since he joined Kevin Walsh's management set-up at the start of this season.
Galway don't just defend in numbers, they defend with purpose from a line across their own ‘45', choking up the shooting zone and forcing their opponents into low percentage shots or passes before breaking with pace.
Comer, who was a handful at full-forward earlier in his career, has been transformed as a ball-winner and ball-carrier in the middle third and Eamonn Brannigan (2-9) and Barry McHugh (1-21, including 18 points from placed balls) have provided the cutting edge as an inside forward pair.
Those two will have important roles to play because, like Tyrone last year, the Tribesmen may find that their system is not suited to the space of Croke Park. It is one thing marking space, another thing picking up Dublin runners who have hit 10 goals in seven games in the League.
The Dubs will be determined to underline their status as top dogs in their last outing before the Championship begins in May. Expect Galway to acquit themselves well, but expect Dublin to win.
Paths to the final
Dublin 2-17 Kildare 2-10
Dublin 2-13 Tyrone 1-11
Dublin 0-20 Donegal 0-15
Dublin 2-10 Mayo 0-12
Dublin 2-17 Kerry 0-11
Dublin 0-13 Galway 0-13
Monaghan 2-12 Dublin 0-17
Dean Rock: 1-25 (0-18 frees), Ciaran Kilkenny: 2-16, Niall Scully: 2-8
Galway 1-9 Tyrone 0-8
Galway 1-12 Donegal 0-14
Galway 1-13 Mayo 0-11
Galway 1-14 Kerry 0-14
Galway 0-17 Monaghan 1-10
Galway 0-13 Dublin 0-13
Galway 0-16 Kildare 0-10
Barry McHugh: 1-21 (0-15 frees, 0-3 45s), Shane Walsh: 0-16 (0-9 frees), Eamonn Brannigan: 2-9