Despite the large crowd and bright colors at Croke Park yesterday, there was little atmosphere in the first half of the All-Ireland semifinals.
were always shattered at the start and Derry were the much better team in the first quarter but couldn’t take the advantage home. They started brilliantly but apart from Brendan Rogers there was no scoring threat and Derry kicked very badly after his early impact.
They were matched in that department of Galway, whose shooting was terrible early on. Derry seemed willing to allow any of the Galway players to shoot from distance and Paul Conroy and Cillian McDaid kicked farther than they would normally put down.
It took Galway over 20 minutes to score. Equally good Damien Comer showed the ball while Shane Walsh was out of play, Conor McCluskey did more than mark Walsh, he also came forward quickly and Walsh got pushed around too easily, very similar story to the Armagh game.
Still, he kicked valuable frees throughout the game and the most controversial 45 of the year, which was a point and was chalked off by Hawk-Eye. It was blatantly wrong. How many more points have been given far from technology lately? Few games have ever been more personality dominated than Comer in this one. He dragged Galway with power, pace and accuracy. He was a man among men and, to be fair to Galway, they stayed calm during an opening period when they got a bit off-beat. They didn’t get enough players on the ball and attacked too slowly.
Things changed after half-time, their pressure on Derry’s kick-outs became much more aggressive, they started winning the long ones and pushed ahead in numbers. Conroy and McDaid started and Seán Kelly, Dylan McGrath and Kieran Molloy kept pushing forward.
Derry went the opposite way – they slowly carried the ball forward and most of their forwards were afraid to shoot and they kicked a lot of bad wides. They look like a team coached to within an inch of their lives, but they have little spontaneity.
In the second half, Derry sometimes allowed Galway to hold the ball for a few minutes as they seemed unable to simply give up their defensive straitjacket and push upstairs to try and win ball back.
Derry walked out with a whimper and will look back with regret, especially not trying to play with much more adventure in the second half. However, this is a lesson along the way for a young team and they need to adapt to improve.
Galway showed the flexibility Derry lacked. They came out after half-time with a different approach and reaped the rewards.
As I suspected, defeating Armagh brought a little more steel to Galway. Nothing can upset these players anymore. They got up when it mattered, and now they have the biggest prize of them all within reach. Galway gets better with every game. However, they hope Comer’s injury streak isn’t too serious. Without him he is fit and in top form and has no chance of winning the big trophy. In form there is no full-back strong enough to hold the wild bull of the west. He embodies all that is good about Galway.
But for all Galway’s qualities, this was not a high quality game. Derry couldn’t and wouldn’t shoot, and it’s been a long time since a team in an All-Ireland semi-final looked so unappealing as good strikers.
Galway’s shooting for points hasn’t been much better and eight points won’t win a game against Dublin or Kerry. They went forward in the first half and neither player had the pace to take a short pass from an inside player. The final score doesn’t change that.
The big asset for Galway was the defence, which was often seen as the weakest part of the team. Individually and collectively they did their job and there is no glory for a player when it comes to marking, shading and doubling up well on the ball in possession. But they all did it very disciplined. It is a sign that individual egos are subordinate to the team.
Compliments are also due to Pádraic Joyce and his management team for the fine tuning over the last few months and at each of the games along the way. He has turned Galway into a team of very good footballers with a strong winning rate. They are very worthy finalists, but Joyce will know only too well that in their first major outing abroad, Derry was innocent compared to the lion that will be snarling in two weeks time.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/galway-improving-every-step-of-the-way-41828053.html Galway improves every step of the way