Galway down the Dubs to throw All-Ireland title race wide open

Magnificent second-half display gives Tribe a historic victory at Croke Park

Pádraic Joyce
Galway manager Pádraic Joyce celebrates after his side's victory over Dublin on Saturday. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile (Harry Murphy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

All-Ireland SFC quarter-final

Dublin 0-16 Galway 0-17

FROM their flakiness to their soft underbelly, from their weak mentality to the jibe that they trade in silk more than steel, Galway have had it all thrown at them.

This is a different Galway team, however, as manager Padraic Joyce trumpeted after watching them come from behind to dethrone the holders and blow the All-Ireland SFC race wide open.

“For us, and everybody writing us off and not giving us a chance, not giving us the respect we deserve as a team that’s undefeated all Championship long, it was a fantastic win for us,” he said.

Joyce circled back to that same point of courage under fire again later on.

“No-one gave us a prayer,” he noted.

He was right too, no-one did think it was possible for a patched up Galway team coming in and out of form to do the unthinkable and to knock Dublin out.

To inflict a first All-Ireland quarter-final defeat on the Dubs in 15 years, since the day of the startled earwigs against Kerry in 2009.

And certainly not when they were five points down approaching half-time and minus their captain Sean Kelly with an apparent hamstring twinge. Shane Walsh was taken off later in the game with the same issue.

“Right after half-time, the score that Cillian McDaid got,” said Joyce, highlighting what he felt was a turning point having been four down at half-time.

“We targeted those first five, 10 minutes after half-time because if Dublin got the first one or two scores, sure it was game over, they’d have been six up.

“So for us to claw it back and keep ourselves in the game and take it down the stretch...and we’ve been questioned before and in the past about soft mentality, not closing games out. Look, fair play to the boys.”

Rewind back to Clones in early March and you got a sense of the 2024 version of Galway. They beat Monaghan that day to essentially stay in Division One despite missing 15 players from their panel through injury.

This time they lost Kelly after just 22 minutes and Walsh was hobbling on one leg for a finish up, albeit after delivering 60 or so minutes of excellence and seven points.

Damien Comer still doesn’t look right either. But when you’ve got the meanest defence around - they’ve still only conceded one goal, to Armagh, in eight Championship games - you’re always going to be ultra competitive.

Starting Walsh, Comer and Kelly, despite their injury history, paid off too in an attacking sense, just about.

“You’re a genius when it works out and you’re a clown when it doesn’t,” shrugged Joyce.

“There was no point us having a bench full of Damien Comers and Shane Walshs and then bringing them on and trying to chase the game from seven or eight points down.”

Joyce had no solid news regarding whether Walsh or Kelly will be fit for a semi-final, on July 13 or 14.

Walsh was tracked by John Small but kicked some monster scores, and two in the second half as they began to turn the screw.

The list of heroes in maroon was endless; Johnny McGrath, Dylan McGrath, John Maher, McDaid, Walsh. All of them played their part in a remarkable second half as Galway subjected Dublin to just a third Championship defeat in a decade.

It had a similar pattern to Dublin’s defeat to Donegal in 2014 and the loss to Mayo in 2021 too; leading early on, eventually reeled in. Galway won this one 0-6 to 0-2 down the stretch. Substitute Tomo Culhane, on for Walsh, kicked what proved to be the winning point.

“The beauty now is that we have two full weeks to prepare for a semi-final,” said Joyce.

“We’ve played three games in 14 days and they were hard hitting games against Armagh, Monaghan and Dublin, three top quality sides. The lads’ bodies are sore.”

Was there any victory in defeat for Dublin? Probably not. But they did display yet again that if you’re going to beat them, you’ll have to move mountains to do so.

Dessie Farrell suggested afterwards some veterans could retire; Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy, Michael Fitzsimons, Jack McCaffrey are all in this category. Farrell might consider his own role too after five seasons.

“We just seemed to run out of energy in the second half,” said Farrell.

“Our ability to get forward quickly and get back quickly definitely diminished in that second half. Ultimately you can’t afford a performance like that in any game, let alone for the entirety of the second half.”

Galway C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, J Glynn; D McHugh (0-1), L Silke, S Mulkerrin; P Conroy (0-1), S Kelly; M Tierney (0-1, 1m), J Maher (0-1), C McDaid (0-3); R Finnerty, D Comer, S Walsh (0-7, 4f).

Subs C Darcy (0-1) for Kelly 22, L O Conghaile for Finnerty 47, J Heaney (0-1) for Tierney 54, C Hernon for Fitzgerald 60, T Culhane (0-1) for Walsh 65.

Dublin S Cluxton; E Murchan, S MacMahon, M Fitzsimons; J Small (0-1, 1m), B Howard, J McCaffrey; B Fenton (0-1), J McCarthy; N Scully, S Bugler (0-2), C Kilkenny (0-2); P Mannion (0-1), C O’Callaghan (0-4, 2m, 1f), C Costello (0-4, 2f, 1 45).

Subs C Basquel for Mannion 48, R McGarry (0-1) for Scully 54, T Lahiff for McCaffrey 59, P Small for Costello 66, L O’Dell for Murchan 72.

Referee S Hurson (Tyrone).