Galway had, once again, to endure a bit of a battle before getting by plucky little Leitrim at Pearse Stadium yesterday. When they got that early goal and then almost got a second one soon after, it looked like they were going to give the Ridge County the kind of beating we endured from them last year at the same venue. However, in contrast to our own rather craven collapse there in May last year, Leitrim steadied themselves and an excellent Declan Maxwell goal put them right back into it. With Leitrim trailing by only a couple of points at the break, Liam Sammon’s brow would have been even more furrowed than normal as he pondered why the Tribesmen hadn’t secured a much bigger lead at that stage.
The one big advantage the likes of Galway have over Leitrim is strength in depth and so Sammon was able to bring on Barry Cullinane and Cormac Bane at half-time, both of whom helped to swing the match back in the Herrin Chokers’ direction. Bane got 1-2 in the second half and it was his goal that finally gave the home side some breathing space. Bane certainly knows how to raise those green flags – he got three goals in the two games they played against us last year – and his second half performance yesterday will make it difficult for Liam Sammon to omit him from his starting line-up on July 13th. Sammon also brought on Sean Armstrong in the second half, underlining once again what a strong bench the Tribesmen have.
We saw both sides to Galway yesterday – great going forward, rubbish at the back – a point underlined by the high scoreline at both ends. If we manage to get past Sligo on Sunday (oooh – I’m getting all tingly at the prospect of seeing some action again after all this time), the final could be a high-scoring one, given that we’re also handy enough in the forwards and equally all over the shop in the backs. But let’s not lose the run of ourselves – we have the Connacht champions to face first.
The attendance at Pearse Stadium yesterday was another disappointment: fewer than 8,000 made it through the gates at Salthill, with only around 10,000 having been there for the Roscommon game. What is it with the Galway crowd (or, more correctly, the lack of a crowd)? They’re getting like the Kerrymen, saving their shillings for the final. This year will be their fourth Connacht decider on the trot, by the way, and they’ve only won one of the last three (and that one was played in Pearse Stadium and all).
Elsewhere, the big talking point from yesterday was the classy behaviour displayed by Kerry’s new captain Paul Galvin who got sent off in the Kingdom’s Munster clash with Clare. Kerry were on their way to a routine victory (they were even a man up at this stage) but then Galvin’s big gob got him into trouble. He complained to a linesman about some rough treatment from his marker (yes, you have read that correctly) and the linesman then said something to the ref (probably something along the lines of “you want to give that lippy bollix Galvin another yellow”), following which the ref (Paddy Russell – who must surely be nearing pension age by now) did indeed give a yellow to Galvin and his marker. Galvin had already been booked earlier on so that was the end of the day’s action for the King of the Corner Boys.
In fairness to Galvin, it appears he was hard done by but a second yellow in a match already won really is no big deal. Unless you’re Paul Galvin, of course. Ripping the ref’s book off him, fucking before and behind him, scrapping with teammate Tomas O Se, who was only trying to talk some sense into his skipper, and then taking half the day to leave the field – now that IS a big deal. Russell turned the second yellow into a straight red (probably because the yellow was by then lodged in one of his orifices), which means that Galvin now misses the Munster final. The beaks are aso likely to throw the book (ha ha) at the combustible Kerry captain, which could rule him out for longer than the mandatory four weeks. There’s even an outside chance he could miss the rest of the Championship campaign, though a ban of 6-8 weeks is probably more likely.
Galvin’s mother-of-all hissy fits overshadowed the other big news from Munster yesterday where Cork showed that they’re still heading backwards. Limerick were desperately unlucky not to scalp the Donkey Ayters, having led by three points with a minute to go. However, a bit like the Turks on the telly last night, Cork engineered a late smash and grab, with two injury-time goals securing an undeserved victory. Even Paul Galvin, smouldering in his sin bin, can take some comfort in the knowledge that the ragged Leesiders are unlikely to check the Kingdom’s march to Croker for the business end of the Championship dish ear.
But the Kerrymen will still be sniffing the breeze and eyeing, perhaps even with a trace of nervousness, the weekend’s events in Ulster. This is because Down – their only true nemesis – are once again on the march and, having overcome Tyrone in a titanic replay that went to extra-time on Saturday night, the Mournemen are unlikely to be fazed by the prospect of meeting Armagh in the semis. If they get over that hurdle, they’d still have to beat Derry or Fermanagh to claim the Ulster crown (it’d be fun to see Kerry face the likes of Tyrone, Armagh and Derry every year, just for starters, like) but Saturday’s night victory now means that Down are credible challengers for Ulster once more (Paddy Power still has them at 9/2 – WJ The Tipster’s Friend reckons that might just be worth a punt) and that they’re likely to make an appearance, either via the front or the back door, in the All-Ireland series. Where, if there is a God, they’ll meet and beat the Kerrymen, provoking, no doubt, an even bigger mickey fit from Kerry’s classy captain.