Dublin dominance continues against gutsy Galway in Croke
All-Ireland SFC semi-final: Dublin 1-24 Galway 2-12
WHEN there’s more debate about numbers off the pitch than on it then it’s clear that the game has certain issues.
The official attendance of 54,700 was the lowest for a football semi-final involving Dublin since their 1995 meeting with Cork attracted under 53,000.
The match itself was better than many had anticipated, certainly before the break, although it was clear by midway through the second half that the Dubs were heading into a fourth consecutive final.
Dublin’s dominance doesn’t appear to be turning off their own supporters. Instead, despite the Tribe Minors playing beforehand, it seemed that the Galway crowd was lower than might have been expected.
Sure, there’s some crossover in support with their hurlers, who are in next Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC Final, but perhaps the extra matches – and attendant extra cost – in the new football format is more of a factor.
Maybe the Tribesmen’s followers just knew what was coming.
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Galway were neither as defensive nor as dirty/ cynical as has been claimed this season – although perhaps they should have been both.
In truth, it’s hard to restrict the Dublin attack, especially when augmented by backs and midfielders as excellent as Jack McCaffrey and Brian Fenton.
Perhaps the best shot at victory is to come swinging at the Dubs. Galway did profit from direct ball, scoring 1-5 of their 1-7 before the break, but Dublin mostly plugged the gaps at the back after the opening quarter.
Even though they lost Cian O’Sullivan to a hamstring problem before half an hour had elapsed, Mick Fitzsimons replaced him and Jonny Cooper took over the sweeping role to good effect. John Small stuck doggedly to Shane Walsh and Galway went 13 minutes without scoring, racking up six first half wides.
Brian Howard and McCaffrey were excellent, working the flanks in both directions, both winning ball and then using it well.
Dublin were much more clinical at the other end, getting 10 scores from 12 first half attacks, with one of their two wides coming when McCaffrey was bundled out of play while in possession. In contrast, Galway’s eight scores came from 18 forays forward before the interval.
People continue to pick holes in Dublin performances like the Dubs pick holes in opposition defences, but the latter is done with far greater success. They move the ball – and men – around so well and with such patience and composure that scoring is made to look simple.
The Dub’s scoring rates were remarkably consistent too – six points in each of the first three quarters (1-3 in the second), followed by nine as the game opened up more in the closing stages.
Expectations are now so high of Dublin that any falling short can be construed by some as an average enough display.
Yet they registered 25 scores against a Galway team that hadn’t shipped more than 16 in this Championship campaign – and only the Dubs exceeded that tally with their 0-18 in the League Division One decider.
Dublin really ARE special, managing to provide plenty of entertainment despite yet another predictable, comfortable victory.
This wasn’t anywhere near as one-sided as last year’s 12-point destruction of Tyrone at the same stage but the winning margin probably should have been identical, if not greater.
Perhaps the last moments of this match summed up this Dubs side: in the fourth minute of added time their defence leaked a sloppy goal to Shane Walsh, as they’d done for Galway’s opening score from Damien Comer - but the boys in blue still found time to go up the other end and rattle the woodwork not once but twice.
Yet although Dublin fully deserved their victory despite those two major concessions, it was a wasted Galway goal chance that made a potentially massive difference.
The Connacht champs had started as slowly as some feared after their poor performance at home to Monaghan the previous Saturday evening but their first goal in the eighth minute, fisted in by their captain Comer, had levelled matters – and they should have found the net at least once more inside the opening 12 minutes.
Comer had capitalised on a mis-judged attempt to come and clear by his Dublin counterpart Stephen Cluxton, who had to race out to save from the full-forward again following a botched re-start after that punched goal.
Comer then won a penalty after 10 minutes, going down after contact by Jonny Cooper – but Eamonn Brannigan’s low, telegraphed effort was pushed round the post by Cluxton’s full-length dive to his left.
When Walsh could not convert the resultant ‘45’ Dublin did what they do, punish opponents who let them off the hook, and reeled off the next three scores.
Admittedly gutsy Galway then did likewise, but that was the only time they were level again, and for less than a minute, as Con O’Callaghan’s 27th minute goal gave the Dubs a lead they would not lose.
That score was created by a great pass from the magnificent McCaffrey, releasing Niall Scully on the right, and he squared for a plunging O’Callaghan to palm in despite the efforts of Galway full-back Sean Andy O Ceallaigh to keep the ball out.
Galway showed spirit to reduce the gap to two at half-time, 1-9 to 1-7, but the second period was a very different matter.
The Dubs outscored Galway by 15 points to 1-5, and in truth that should have been at least ‘triple scores’ superiority.
The tone was set very early on, with a Scully shot coming off the left upright and McCaffrey reacting almost like a basketballer trying a slam dunk, tipping the rebound away from Brannigan before Kelly got back to stop the Clontarf man finishing to the net.
Paul Mannion, O’Callaghan, and Kilkenny all added points from play so that it was obvious the game was up midway through the second half.
Even a rather bizarre interlude when the normally reliable Dean Rock showcased a variety of wides – from a ‘45’, a free, and then from play – did not damage Dublin. ‘Deano’ got hooked, of course, despite setting up that Kilkenny score and scoring a point from play himself. Just the two points for his replacement, Kevin McManamon…
It’s nothing new to point to the quality of Dublin’s subs, but still - Fitzsimons, Cormac Costello, McManamon, Michael Darragh Macauley, and Paul Flynn! Darren Daly is probably class too but we just don’t see enough of him.
Even when Walsh reduced the deficit to five points from a 54th minute free, the Dubs responded by firing over the next four scores.
It was damage limitation after that, despite a superb score from the right wing by Comer, and Dublin reeled off another four in a row in added time. Walsh’s goal was no consolation.
There’ll be a full house on September 2 and Dublin have enough aces to make it four of a kind.
Dublin: S Cluxton (capt.); E Murchan, C O’Sullivan, P McMahon; J Cooper, J Small, J McCaffrey; J McCarthy, B Fenton (0-2); N Scully, C Kilkenny (0-3), B Howard (0-1); C O’Callaghan (1-3), D Rock (0-5, 0-4 frees), P Mannion (0-4).
Substitutes: M Fitzsimons for O’Sullivan (28, inj.); C Costello (0-3, 0-1 free) for Scully (44); K McManamon (0-2) for Rock (56); M D Macauley for Murchan (58); D Daly for Small (66); P Flynn (0-1) for McCaffrey (68).
Yellow card: Small (42).
Galway: R Lavelle; D Kyne, S A O Ceallaigh, E Kerin; C Sweeney, G Bradshaw, J Heaney (0-1); C Duggan, T Flynn (0-1); S Walsh (1-5, 0-3 frees), S Armstrong, S Kelly; I Burke (0-2), D Comer (capt.) (1-1), E Brannigan.
Substitutes: M Daly (0-1) for Armstrong (46); P Cooke for Brannigan (50); G O’Donnell (0-1) for Sweeney (56); A Varley for Heaney (59); K Molloy for Kerin (66); J Duane for Bradshaw (68).
Yellow cards: Kelly (45); Kerin (65).
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry).