Leinster SHC: Dublin 2-22 Galway 1-25
It ended in a frenetic draw at Croke Park, but at half-time the clamour on social media was for RTÉ to turn off the cameras in Croke Park and change their focus to Wexford Park, or even to Mullingar. Dublin were making short work of Galway all over the pitch, capitalising on errors and picking off scores at their ease, while dominating all the key one-on-one battles inside their own 65-metre line.
The first two points of the second half, a long-range effort from Donal Burke and an angled drive from Cian Boland that crept inside the near post, made it 2-18 to 0-12, and at that stage it looked inevitable that Micheál O’Donoghue was about to guide Dublin to the Leinster final.
A Kilkenny draw or victory in Wexford would have meant that a win of any colour would have been enough, while a win by three or more points would have done the trick, regardless of events in the southeast.
Yet somehow, without ever producing a performance that could be described by any adjective in the wider superlative family, Galway gradually found their stride. The injection of impetus from the bench, better use of the wind, and a goal from a most unlikely source – Daithí Burke – brought them right back into contention. And even though they didn’t take the lead until the 70th minute, long before then they looked like they would reel in a Dublin side that simply didn’t have enough scoring power to support the excellent work of Burke and Danny Sutcliffe.
Twice Galway took the lead, and twice Burke nailed pressure frees to ensure that while the Dubs didn’t get the win they needed, they still took something from the day and will feel a little bit of wind on their backs as they prepare for a potential banana skin tie in Carlow next time out.
As for Galway? The result won’t stand out in the record books, but the performance will rankle, particularly their lifeless showing in the opening half.
Joseph Cooney’s heroics kept them in contention as he potted four outstanding strikes into the breeze, as well as setting up a handful of excellent chances for his colleagues. Outside of that, however, it was one-way traffic. Burke and Cian O’Sullivan shot outstanding early points from the flanks, a mis-hit shot from O’Sullivan skewed off the hurl and evaded Éanna Murphy before dropping into the top corner, while Dublin’s shooting from distance was exemplary.
Eoghan O’Donnell, Daire Gray and Conor Burke shot four points between them from half back, and the icing on the cake was when Danny Sutcliffe pounced on a risky lateral pass across his own goal line from TJ Brennan to tap in their second goal.
A scoreline of 2-16 to 0-12 to Dublin at half-time was still 2-20 to 0-17 after a forgettable third quarter, but with Daithí Burke, Pádraic Mannion and Jack Grealish now in fine form at the back, Galway at least had a platform, and eventually muscle memory kicked in just about in time.
DUBLIN: S Brennan; J Bellew, P Smyth, P Doyle; C Burke (0-1), E O’Donnell (0-2), D Gray (0-1); C Donohoe (0-1), M Grogan (0-1); C Boland (0-3), C O’Leary, S Currie; D Sutcliffe (1-2), C O’Sullivan (1-1), D Burke (0-10, five frees, one 65).
Subs: A Considine for O’Leary (56 mins), D Purcell for O’Sullivan (64), P Crummey for Boland (67), J Madden for Donohoe (68), F Whitely for Grogan (70+4).
GALWAY: E Murphy (0-1, free); TJ Brennan, G McInerney, D Morrissey; P Mannion, D Burke (1-0), F Burke (0-1); J Cooney (0-5), R Glennon (0-1); K Cooney (0-3), E Niland (0-11, seven frees), C Cooney; T Monaghan (0-2), C Whelan, D McLoughlin.
Subs: B Concannon for McLoughlin, J Grealish for Brennan (both h-t), S Linnane for F Burke (42 mins), J Flynn (0-1) for Glennon (49), L Collins for C Cooney (64).
Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).