Ulster outscored Galway 3-4 to 0-8 in the final 15 minutes to take the win in this senior hurling contest.
In a game that was free flowing throughout, the winners had major stars in Pat Hartley at center half and David Grogan in the forward line to lead the side. Hartley was outstanding throughout and his use of the sliotar and positional strength was outstanding. Time and again he soloed out from the back, tapping ball from the deck and back to give himself additional touches before dispatching to the inside forwards.
Galway after an excellent start used the free taking of Liam Mellowe’s man Tadhg Haron to stay close, but the three closing goals were too much to withstand.
The Tribe had a 1-3 to zero lead after five minutes with John Power driving to the net from an acute angle. Ulster awoke and they had six of the next seven scores with Ger Arthur grabbing his first goal in the mix. It was a cute batted goal when David Sheehan dropped a pass perfectly into his reach.
The exchanges were tough but extremely fair thus far, but Galway lost Tommy Doyle to a shoulder injury when he met an opponent shoulder to shoulder. His loss was pivotal.
With New York center half Richie Gaule already absent due to injury, the void was irreplaceable. Haron had a brace from placed balls, but another 1-2 spurt gave Ulster a 2-7 to 1-6 advantage. Arthur was again the goal scorer.
Galway finished the half strong, and Trevor Vaughan had a net shaker when James Nolan set him free, while Haron with two and Foley had points for the side to counteract Higgins and Peter O’Brien scores and leave the sides level on 2-9 a piece at the break.
After the sides split four points to open the second half, Pat Hartley’s influence started to grow. He was acting as a sweeper and was completely dominant at this time.
Sheehan added a brace of frees, but they were cancelled out by scores from Haran and Foley before Ger Arthur completed his hat trick when Hartley found him with a delightful pass.
Four of the next five points were on Galway, but the factor that a goal brings to the equation was clearly shown when Brian McMahon off the bench drilled to the net. O’Brien followed with the side’s fifth and a 5-14 to 2-17 lead with seven minutes left on the clock.
Four Haran points counteracted three on the other side but the goal that Galway so badly needed never looked like arriving.
On the strength of this win, it looks like the sides are headed for a meeting in the semifinal. Both have to play Long Island, with Ulster up against them next Sunday, but Long Island look poised to get a path directly to the final as they have eight points at the moment while Galway and Ulster are sitting on four apiece.
For the winners, Brian McNaughton was quietly confident in nets while Enda Grogan, Mike Cunningham and the outstanding Pat Hartley held the defense together. Midfield was by passed for periods, but the battle between Richie Hartnett and Brian Glynn was not for the faint of heart or body.
Al Higgins and Peter O’Brien did a lot of damage on the forty line. O’Brien had a lively second half, while a 3-11 return from the full forward pairing was tremendous. Robbie Jackson had another very effective game in the defensive end.
Haran had a dozen scores over the hour and showed some excellent stick work. Trevor Vaughan and Thomas Foley came alive as the game went on while John Power had a very good opening half.
Galway: Terrance Grogan, 2 David Healy, 4 Shane Sheahan, 5 Robbie Jackson, 6 Tommy Doyle, 7 Andrew Keane, 8 Tadhg Haran (0-12), 9 Brian Glynn, 10 Rob Lowery (0-1), 11 Trevor Vaughan (1-2), 12 Thomas Foley (0-3), 13 James Nolan (0-3), 15 John Power (1-0).
Ulster: 1 Brian McNaughton, 2 Peter Hatzer, 4 Enda Grogan, 5 Blaine Lehart, 6 Pat Hartley, 7 Mike Cunningham, 8 Ger McFettridge, 9 Richie Hartnett, 10 Ali Higgins (0-2), 11 Peter O’Brian (1-3), 12 Eanna Slattery (0-1), 13 David Sheehan (0-10), 15 Gerry Arthur (3-1). Sub Brendan McMahon (1-0).
Referee: Eugene Kyne.
Man of the match: Pat Hartley (Ulster).