TOM HUMPHRIES in Tullamore
UNDER-21 HURLING ALL-IRELAND SEMI-FINAL Galway 2-14 Dublin 1-10: IT MUST be frustrating to be Anthony Daly – one of the most passionate and inspirational of hurling men of the last couple of decades.
Again and again in the past two years Dublin teams have exited championships with scarcely a whimper.
On Saturday in Tullamore that passivity was in evidence once again as a team which had beaten Kilkenny on a night of high passion on Nowlan Park lay down and let an efficient Galway side take control of the second half and seize the golden ticket to next month’s All-Ireland Under 21 final where they will face Tipperary.
Dublin arrived into the fixture missing four of their blue clip players but those absentees couldn’t be blamed for the timidity of the Dublin forwards who bunched together for comfort in a channel in front of the Galway goal and seldom drove into any loose ball with aggression or conviction.
On the couple of occasions when they used their brains and played the ball wide to stretch Galway they got results. Perversely, those occasions became fewer and fewer as the game slipped past.
At half-time it looked as if there was everything to be played for. Dublin had scored a goal early on through David Quinn after James Regan of Galway and Conor Clinton of Dublin had traded scores in the first minute. Quinn was quickest to react to a deflected save from Galway keeper Kris Finnegan after a Liam Rushe shot and he pulled to the net.
By the sixth minute Galway had a goal of their own – this one a penalty driven home by Niall Quinn after the corner forward Richie Cummins was pulled down in front of goal. By the 10th minute the game was tied 1-2 apiece and just settling into a pattern.
Dublin’s half back line and midfield did just about all that could have been asked of them but the supply of ball they fed into the Dublin forwards came back just as quickly as it went in.
Niall McMorrow, Dublin’s free-taker, looked out of sorts and, by stark contrast, David Burke of Galway struck a series of beautiful long-range frees – each one of which seemed to freshly puncture Dublin’s morale.
Burke looked like the best player on the pitch and his contribution, particularly at that stage of the game where Galway seemed to lack the confidence to go and win the thing, was massive.
Dublin’s own conviction was poor as well and they went 19 minutes of the first half without scoring before the excellent Pater Kelly pointed from long range.
Kelly, one of the senior players on view, looked the part. By contrast, Liam Rushe struggled to make an impact and his runs when in possession became predictable to the Galway defence.
He wasn’t alone in his sufferings though.
Dublin hit some bad wides and some careless wides in the first half and on more than one occasion opted to shoot when a pass to a better placed man would have served better.
Galway were a point ahead at the break and one imagined the sort of passion which would be infused into both sides as they had their tea. It never materialised. Galway moved up a gear. Dublin motored along in a state of odd contentment.
Galway scored three points to Dublin’s one early in the second half before sub Bernard Burke broke and slipped the ball home under Finn McGarry for Galway’s second goal. Game over.
Dublin got a little zip into their pace at last with the introduction of Darren Whelan but even his best efforts couldn’t alter the landscape.
Last chance fell to McGarry Dublin’s goalkeeper who had a penalty saved on 58 minutes.
So it was that Galway dipped under the tape for their first All-Ireland Under-21 Hurling final since 2007,
GALWAY : K Finnegan; D Connolly, P Gordan, G OHalloran; N Donoghue, D Burke (0-4 all frees) , S Óg Linnane; J Coen (0-1) , B Daly; J Regan (0-1), N Quinn (1-2, gl from pen), E Forde (0-3, two frees); R Cummins (0-1) , G Burke, G Kelly (0-2). Subs: B Burke (1-0) for Cummins (half-time), J Grealish for Daly (48 mins), N Burke for G Burke (54 mins), J Cooney for Forde (60 mins).
DUBLIN : F McGarry; R Walsh, D Kelly, O Gough; R O’Loughlin, M Quilty, P Kelly (0-2, one free, one 65); C Clinton (0-2) , P Buckeridge; D Quinn (1-0) , D Plunkett, B ORorke (0-1) ; C Brennan, L Rushe, N McMorrow (0-2, frees). Subs : A McInerney for Quinn (42 mins), D Whelan (0-3, all frees) for McMorrow (44), M Schutte for Clinton (48), K OLoughlin for ORorke (54).
Referee: Jason O’Mahony (Limerick