The common denominator for all four goals conceded by Galway in the four 2022 league games in regular time will not escape Padraic Joyce ahead of the All-Ireland semi-final against Derry.
Each were leaked late, so late in the case of the last three that it was deep in stoppage time when cover was broken.
Against Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, the damage resulted in overtime and penalties which, once successfully weathered, could have a galvanizing effect to steel them even more for what lies ahead.
That is the optimistic view.
But the panic that was developing in its own Tormaul that afternoon, the loss of control that allowed Aidan Nugent and then Conor Turbitt to take advantage of a worsening situation and turn it around for them, had a precursor just weeks before, and if they look far back enough and in the games that really mattered they followed a similar pattern.
Galway haven’t been authoritative enough as they’ve built decent leads and shown a vulnerable side.
Does it matter if they win games and enjoy the journey? Maybe not so much. But a team of their ambition must uncover a more ruthless lead as they step into the positions in which they have now found themselves so often.
Against Roscommon in the Connacht final at the end of May the consequences were not so great because they were so far ahead, nine points at a time before first Conor Daly was seven minutes late, followed by Diarmuid Murtagh in the last half of the game. The impact of those two goals was felt on the scoreboard but not the result as Galway won by three points. The pillow was enough.
However, it gave a false impression that the game was tight when it wasn’t. Galway had outplayed Roscommon but that was not accurately reflected in the score as Roscommon chiselled out a certain seriousness.
Four weeks earlier, Galway also had to withstand a late Mayo rally at Castlebar after building a six-point lead from 1-14 to 0-11 with 10 minutes to go.
There were no goals this time, but Mayo scored from long-range. Sparked by a point from Lee Keegan, more points followed from O’Donoghue, Cillian O’Connor from two frees and substitute Kevin McLoughlin before Aidan Orme missed a late chance for a draw and extra time. Galway just held on and had they been caught the extra time might have been quite painful for them and might have given a different shape to the season.
Results in every game have helped to disguise that late vulnerability and Galway can take something from the fact that they still survived as everything was thrown at them by teams who will all play in Division 1 next year.
And they can point to that as progress from last year. They spent late winter and spring wading through Division 2 after failing to defend a five-point in their Division 1 relegation game against Monaghan at Clones last June as the clock ticked through normal time.
Joyce had balked at Monaghan’s home claim after playing two of their three league games away and they ultimately benefited as first Conor McManus with the last kick of regular time and then Jack McCarron from roughly the same position at the end of overtime – Time delivered killer blow.
It should never have gotten that far. As Shane Walsh dropped his fourth shot of the afternoon into Rory Beggan’s arms, Joyce whipped it away amid the general feeling they were about to end the game.
But Darren Hughes caught them with a late goal, again poorly defended and with a sense of chaos reigning and they were dragged into a place they just didn’t want or need to go that day.
A five-point lead was also dangerous territory against Mayo in last year’s Connacht final, although Mayo came on early this time with goals in the third quarter.
You have to imagine Galway drawing a lot from how they pulled it around against Armagh under the circumstances. Tiernan Kelly may have given them an “off,” shifting the dynamic in the dressing room from potential regret and fear to anger at what his peers had experienced with Damien Comer.
At their peak, Comer, Shane Walsh, Matthew Tierney and Rob Finnerty were big talents who showed nerves in penalties. Johnny Heaney’s scoring ability and defensive skills add another dimension. But it seems that bringing order to those closing moments must now be a priority for Galway as they move further into the business end of the season.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/galway-crave-authority-to-see-out-games-in-closing-moments-41817174.html Galway craves the authority to watch games in the closing moments