THE omens probably weren’t good for Kildare when they gifted Galway a point after just 39 seconds.
After winning the throw-in a Galway attack floundered when Kildare full-back David Hyland forced a turnover. It was to be the start of a very good afternoon for the Athy man but unfortunately it was the beginning of a nightmare for too many of his teammates. When the ball worked its way as far as Sean Hurley, he hand-passed it straight to Thomas Flynn and from there Galway got the ball to Shane Walsh for the first of his six points.
By the end of the first half, Kildare’s shooting was the biggest talking point but it was far from their only problem. For Galway’s second score, goalkeeper Mark Donnellan sent a kickout directly to Flynn. Flynn fed Sean Moran, who laid the ball off to Ian Burke and as three Kildare defenders converged on him, he spotted the unmarked Flynn on the 13-metre line, from where he finished to the net past Donnellan. On the replay, neither of Kildare’s midfielders are in sight as Flynn scores while Paul Cribbin stands watching the goal unfold. It is in marked contrast to the brilliant block Cribbin made against Longford in the closing stages of the Leinster final, when he denied Mark Hughes a certain goal.
At least Kildare found a way back into the game when Daniel Flynn hit the net three minutes later. Niall Kelly pointed in the 16th minute to give Kildare the lead for the only time in the game.
It was also the only time Kildare managed to score twice in a row. As well as their struggle to get scores, perhaps Kildare’s inability to gather momentum was as much of a problem. Galway hit four unanswered points from the 18th and 28th minutes to give themselves a three-point lead. That spell gave them control of the game and the closest Kildare came after that was when Padraig Fogarty briefly reduced the deficit to two points after half-time.
Despite their poor return in front of goal, you could understand why Kieran McGeeney persisted with his attack for so long. Fionn Dowling might have kicked six wides, including four in the first half, but he was out in front of his man every time and shooting from good positions. Of the 20 shots Kildare had at the target in the first half, half of them (10) came from inside the 20-metre line.
Kildare had seven shots in front of the uprights – two inside the 20 metre line and five inside the 45 – yet they only scored three. Twice in the first half Sean Hurley kicked shots into the keeper’s hands from not much more than 25 metres. Twice in the first half Paddy Brophy had shots blocked down. In contrast to their opponents, Kildare struggled to get players coming through the middle at pace. Instead they opted to attack the wings more often than not. Seven of their shots were taken from the right while six were kicked from the left. Had they tried to get more shots away from the centre, they surely would have had a better return but you would expect a team at this level to be capable of scoring from those positions.
In the second half, Kildare had 17 shots but only scored three of them. With the wind at his back, Tommy Moolick tried a couple of long range efforts from the 45 but he kicked two wide and one off the post. One of the worst efforts was a Sean Hurley 45 which barely hit the netting behind the goal.
Galway were much more selective with their shots and scored five of their 11 in the second half. All five of their scores, which included one goal and four points, came from in front of the posts and four of those scores came inside the 20-metre line. What was amazing about the game was that Kildare did not win one free inside the Galway 45. Galway scored 0-3 from frees and each of those was from right in front of the uprights on the 13-metre line. The fact was that Galway forced Kildare to foul by attacking at pace and getting a support player running off the shoulder of the man in possession. Twice Kildare defenders had to concede a free to prevent a goal chance while David Hyland and Mark Donnellan came to Kildare’s rescue on two different occasions to deny Galway a goal.
Kildare rarely broke through the Galway defence at pace and if there was a moment that encapsulated their attacking problems it came in the 51st minute, right after Sean Hurley had scored their second goal. Hughie Mahon raced down the right wing and when he ran into a cul-de-sac, he recycled the ball back out the wing where Kildare almost created an overlap when Paddy Brophy came into the attack at speed, off Liam McGovern’s shoulder. Instead of continuing through the middle, Brophy checked his run and hand-passed to a static Tommy Moolick. Inevitably Moolick was dispossessed as the Galway defence converged on him and the chance of a late Kildare rally evaporated when Galway went up the field and got the next score from a Shane Walsh free.
That was the end of Kildare. Just as they had in the first minute when Sean Hurley gave away the ball for Galway’s first point, they had orchestrated their own downfall.