We’ve already played Galway twice this year. First it was the pre-season FBD kickabout in the Dome in mid-January, followed by the more serious National League Round 1 meeting at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park at the end of that month. On Sunday, at Croke Park we lock horns with them once again as we compete for the National League’s Division One title.
The game throws in at HQ at 4pm on Sunday. Brendan Cawley of Kildare is the ref and it’ll be shown live on TG4.
We’re fairly fond of the League and we’ve have a far better strike rate in it that we have in the Championship. That’s largely due to the famous League Specialists era in the Thirties when we won it six years on the trot. In total, we’ve twelve League titles, third on the roll of honour after Kerry (23) and Dublin (14), with our most recent win occurring as recently as 2019 when we rather joyously beat Kerry in the final.
Galway have won the League four times in their history. The last time they did so was back in 1981 but they did reach the final in 2018, where they lost out to Dublin.
Sunday’s title decider is, of course, Galway’s second national final inside the last twelve months. After they narrowly edged past us in Connacht last year, they went on to win the Nestor Cup before making Championship history by becoming the first team to win an All-Ireland Series match on a penalty shootout, when they prevailed over Armagh on spot kicks at the quarter-final stage.
After a cagey first half against Derry in the semi-final, Galway fairly opened up after the break and won that one easily. They gave it socks in the final against Kerry too and, even though they lost by four at the finish, they were level with just four minutes to go and, had that free against John Daly been given the other way (which it could and probably should have done), then the outcome to that Sam Maguire decider could well have been very different.
After the opening two rounds of this year’s League campaign, a clear narrative was taking shape that Galway were in trouble and might do well to avoid relegation. At that stage, they’d taken just one point from their matches against ourselves and Roscommon. We were fortunate enough to snatch a draw against them – thanks to Ryan O’Donoghue’s late, late strike – but Galway’s one-point loss to the Rossies at Pearse Stadium a week later seemed a particularly careless defeat.
Since then, however, the Tribesmen have rallied impressively, winning four of their remaining five games to finish second in the table, behind us on points difference (of which more anon). Indeed, our blotted copybook from last weekend lends weight to the argument that Galway are coming into Sunday’s decider as the form team in the top Division.
Those five matches played out as follows. In Round 3, they beat Tyrone at Tuam by 0-16 to 0-13, in Round 4 they drew 1-9 apiece with Donegal at Letterkenny, in Round 5 they beat Monaghan by 1-16 to 0-10 at Pearse Stadium, in Round 6 they beat Armagh at the Athletic Grounds by 1-8 to 1-6 and last Sunday, back at Salthill, they turned the tables on All-Ireland champions Kerry, winning that one by 1-13 to 0-14.
Over the course of this League campaign, they’ve developed a deserved reputation for their mean defence and the 91 points they conceded over the seven games was the lowest of all eight teams. That said, Roscommon only let in 92 points and relegated Armagh were the only other team to keep their concession rate under 100. We, by the way, conceded 102 points.
The points-for column doesn’t make the same kind of positive reading for the Tribesmen. They posted an aggregate 93 points over the seven games, the worst total aside from shot-shy Donegal (76), with Armagh the only other team to fail to reach the 100-point mark. We were way out in front on this metric, with a total of 126 points.
All of which sets up Sunday’s decider as one that pits the team that has – at this stage of the year at least – the best attack against the one with the best defence. Something’s got to give.
Galway are very narrow favourites to prevail on Sunday but, like so many recent meetings between the counties, this one has all the hallmarks of one that could go down to the wire. It has to be decided on the day and those of you who’ve already listened to our League final preview pod on Patreon (here) featuring Colm Boyle and Ciaran Murphy will know that Boyler’s match prediction involves a penalty shootout.
In conclusion, I’m not going to ask if you think spot kicks will be needed to separate these great rivals at Croke Park the next day. I will, though, ask you how you think it’ll go and, given that there has to be a winner on the day this makes it a straight yes/no one.
So, then, what do you reckon – will we do the business on Sunday?
Will we beat Galway in the League final?
- Yes (58%, 601 Votes)
- No (42%, 428 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,029