With the sun beating down on Gaelic Park on Sunday, Galway were pushed to the wire by a New York side that was dogged in its determination to battle all the way in the pursuit of the dream of their first championship win in Connaught football.
Despite a goal in the first minutes, Galway were never able to put comfortable breathing space between the sides until injury time as time and again New York came back at them with points from an assortment of angles.
Dan Doona was clinical and magical as the captain. His points brought thundering cheers from the New York spectators as each one outdid the previous effort for brilliance.
Galway will thank their own superstar, veteran Padraig Joyce as he scored 1-6 to help save the day for the Tribesmen.
New York used a physical approach as a tactic and it worked for long periods as it never allowed Galway to settle, but it was also to be their downfall.
They lost two players to second yellow cards in the pivotal period between the 16th and 20th minutes of the second half. It was too much to overcome, and Galway was able to tack 1-2 on to their total at the end to pamper and certainly taint the scoreline.
Yes, they were the better footballing side as things did come a little easier, but they were by no means seven points better. From a Galway perspective they were downright pitiful, and they will need enormous improvement if they are to get to a Connaught final, with the thoughts of Sam Maguire fantasy talk for the light headed.
For New York, if they were eligible for the back door none of the teams outside the top five in Ireland would relish the thought of a journey here as this game would only improve the Apple squad.
Galway had a dream start to the game when they had a goal inside two minutes. An early ball was worked to the corner where Nicky Joyce won a free. He laid the ball across to an all on his own Gary Sice who set up Padraig Joyce for an easy tap in goal, and the game was on.
Eoin Concannon had two wides before Damien Burke had the first yellow of the day before Johnny Murtagh punished the Galway defense for a foul with a pointed free.
Joe Bergin and Murtagh swapped wides before a Nicky Joyce free after Aiden Power over carried to give Galway their second score. The game was robust to say the least, with Pat Madden and Barry Cullinane already introducing themselves and Murtagh and Burke doing likewise.
Doona had New York’s second point when he took a Madden pass on the right wing and pointed splendidly, but again Galway were able to move the ball up the field with Bergin setting Padraig Joyce free for an easy point.
Madden and Niall Coleman were both given yellows as the game continued, with the senior Joyce scoring again before cousin Nicky and Joe Bell swapped points to leave the score at 1-4 to 0-3 with 22 minutes on the clock, Madden now having survived with a talking to after he hit Cullinane in the face and New York had a sigh of relief.
The big Kerryman was taking the game to Galway, and the tactic by New York of driving the ball straight down the center was yielding them 50% of the ball which wasn’t so bad considering.
It was all New York in the final 10 minutes, however, as they put a string of attacks together. Galway conceded a 50 on 25 minutes, and Murtagh slotted over to start the roll.
Despite an easy Padraig Joyce score, New York worked the ball forward with Doona reaching for the ball on the left wing where Kieran Fitzgerald pushed it out over the sideline.
Murtagh was told that the captain would take it, and Doona swung a brilliant kick over the lathe for an inspiring score.
After the kick out again New York attacked with Kevin McGeeney headed for the left corner in possession. He stopped and turned the ball back to the center to Alan Raftery, who set free Jason Kelly. The Offaly native was fouled on the 38 yard line.
Murtagh stepped up and drove over the bar for New York’s sixth point. With injury time beginning there was time for one last attack.
Murtagh and Adrian O’Connor combined to set Benny Reilly free in the right corner. The hardy corner forward broke two tackles and came across the goal before unleashing a screamer that tailed just over the bar, with a goal certainly the objective when he released the ball.
It did leave just the minimum between the sides, 1-5 to 0-7, and the shouts from Joe Kernan were easily heard in the Galway dressingroom during the halftime break.
The sides swapped scores in the first minutes of the second half, with O’Connor and Padraig Joyce the scorers before Sice moved the lead to a pair with a very good drive from the 40 yard line for the visitors.
It again spurred New York into action. They created a goal chance in the following moments as a long ball from Madden was driven to the square. Doona got a fist to it, but it was cleared off the goal line by Kieran Fitzgerald to aleve the danger.
New York kept the pressure on, however. The ball was worked through the hands of O’Connor and Paul O’Hara to Doona on the 50 yard line. With his adoring New York supporters screaming the captain slotted a long glorious drive over the bar.
The game changed in the following 10 minute spell as the physical nature of the game came back to bite the Big Apple. Bergin was fouled, and in the aftermath after a conversation with his linesman Madden from New York received his second yellow. A devastating blow to the side given Madden’s influence.
The home side did grab their 10th point from a Murtagh free when a long run by Lonan Maguire helped set it up, but within a minute Murtagh too had received his second yellow for a silly foul on Thomas Fahy and New York were down to 13.
Paraic and Nicky Joyce had points from frees and Galway were in a 1-10 to 0-10 lead with 10 minutes left in the contest.
Doona had a free to pull New York back, but the sheer numbers in the Galway defense were stopping any New York chances in front of goal.
Paraic Joyce had a free that was again cancelled out by Doona, but the final five minutes were all Galway as they used the short passing game to add 1-2 to their total, with the goal coming from sub Cormac Bane. They also had a clear point by Danny Cummins when he punched over negated as it was amazingly called wide.
New York will be disappointed with the loss but very happy that they put it up to Galway on the day. Pa Ryan could do little about the goals, and his kick outs had the desired effect, long distance down the center.
Colm McCarron, despite an early mistake, settled very well, holding Nicky Joyce over the game. Lonan Maguire had a couple of good runs, but fouls hurt the side.
Raftery’s direct number was the first Galway man taken off. He was quietly very efficient. Aiden Power did a lot of good work in open play as he worked the ball out well; Joe Bergin his opposite also had the same effect however.
In the middle Pat Madden was having a very good outing before his dismissal -- you live by the sword you will get punished. He did upset the Galway apple cart, however, for his fifty minutes on the field.
Adrian O’Connor had an important point, but if the numbers had been different he would surely have been pushed to the full forward line when a goal was needed.
Jason Kelly got about and had a couple of shots on goal as well as being fouled for scoring frees. He was able to run straight at Galway but did not get enough opportunity.
Benny Reilly would love his shot back as next time he bursts the net. He looked capable of getting a goal but was well marshaled.
Johnny Murtagh did well from his placed balls (his encounter with Burke was hard hitting for the first 30 minutes), but Galway did not foul in front of goal, a typical county side, nothing soft.
Dan Doona was outstanding. If he had received more ball it would have been a different outcome.
Ronan Caffrey was at wing back for the last two moths and was then given the corner forward slot, but it didn’t take. Jason Killeen was introduced at the end, and while he did line out for Corafin at 13 on occasion and had a wide in his cameo, a natural scoring forward on the big day is Tomo Smyth who didn’t come off the bench.
Galway will look back and say their win was too close for comfort. Alan Burke did well at the back, but Finian Hanley was out off sorts completely.
Gary O’Donnell and O’Hara battled to a draw, but Damien Burke did a lot of good work in his half. Diarmuid Blake also was a force.
Niall Coleman scavenged and hunted and was the smallest man in the middle at 6’. The other three were all over 6’-5.
Gary Sice was the extra defender and he was outstanding in that role. Joe Bergin was very active in open play, Eoin Concannon started brightly but Cormac Bane who went into the corner was a far bigger threat. Padraig Joyce rolled back the years with a vintage performance.
Now about lineouts. It was a real battle to get the New York lineout; it was then different again on the day. No real reason for the secrecy at this level. Actually, it is comical.
Galway: 1 E. O Conghaile, 2 Kieran Fitzgerald, 3 Finian Hanley, 4 A. Burke, 5 Diarmuid Blake, 6 Gary O'Donnell, 7 Damien Burke, 8 Barry Cullinane, 9 Niall Coleman, 10 Gary Sice (0-1), 11 Fiachra Breathnach, 12 Joe Bergin, 13 Eoin Concannon, 14 Padraig Joyce (1-6), 15 Nicky Joyce (0-4). Subs: Matthew Clancy (0-1) for Breatneach, Thomas Fahy for D. Burke, Cormac Bane (1-1) for Cullinane, Danny Cummins for Sice.
New York: 1 Pa Ryan. 2 Lonan Maguire, 3 Brendan McGourty, 4 Colm McCarron, 5 Joe Bell (0-1), 6 Alan Raftery, 7 Aiden Power, 8 Pat Madden, 9 Adrian O’Connor (0-1), 10 John Murtagh (0-4), 11 Paul O’Hara, 12 Jason Kelly, 13 Ronan Caffrey, 14 Dan Doona (0-5), 15 Benny Reilly (0-1). Subs: Kevin McGeeney for Caffrey, Ross Donovan for Reilly, James Moynagh for Bell, Jason Killeen for O’Hara.
Man of the match: Dan Doona (New York). He had brilliant points from all angles. He showed that he is the one player in New York that all the county panels in Ireland would love to have. If he had more ball coming his way, it would have been an historic day as he roasted his markers.
Referee: Maurice Condron (Waterford). While some say he made mistakes, he did make two glaring ones. Pat Madden should have had line earlier for hitting Cullinane, so New York was fortunate that he lasted, Was Damien Burke taken off because he had two yellows and ref missed it?
He played the rules. If you foul to the extreme you get booked, that’s what he did. Padraig Joyce had his hands up a few times so he was going both ways with strong decisions.