Dublin 1-24 v Galway 2-12
All Ireland Football Championship Semi-Final
Croke Park 5pm Saturday 11th August 2018 Attendance: 54,716
There was an air of inevitability to how the game unfolded. Galway put it up to Dublin in the opening half and trailed by two points at the break, but by the end of the third quarter the game was over as a contest. Dublin’s third quarter display saw them up their intensity and extend that lead out to a seven point gap by the time Brian Howard fisted over their 17th point. Dublin drove on from here as the Galway defence looked jaded and only a late Shane Walsh goal game the final scoreline any semblance of being a contest.
It could have been different for Galway. Had Eammon Brannigan converted a Penalty in the twelfth minute after Damien Comer was pulled down by Jonny Cooper. If the chance had been taken it would have put Galway a goal ahead and given them the momentum in the contest. However, Stephen Cluxton was more than a match for a tame effort that was hit at a nice height for the Dublin keeper and the resultant 45’ was dragged wide by Shane Walsh. Galway, in fact, created more chances than Dublin during the first half, but poor shot selection from Armstrong and Brannigan as well as two missed frees from Shane Walsh meant that despite creating 18 chances Galway only had taken 9 of them. Dublin, on the other hand, had been far more clinical, they only registered a single wide in the opening half and both Kilkenny and McCaffery saw their shots fall short of the target, therefore Dublin had taken 10 from a possible 13 first half chances. At the break Dublin despite having less of the play had racked up 1-9 to Galway’s 1-7.
Jim Gavin’s men have attack record of closing out games in the third quarter and once again they showed the ability to move away from their opposition during this spell. Ciarán Kilkenny, Cormac Costello, Dean Rock, Con O’Callaghan and Paul Mannion all converted well-worked scoring chances while Galway’s attacks began to flounder as slow approach play was easily bottled up by Dublin’s busy half-backs and deep-lying half-forwards.
The kickouts from both keepers was spoken about as a key battleground before the game, however, this never materialised as a contest with both sides conceding the short kickouts. Galway’s Ruradi Lavelle found his own men 83% of the time, While Cluxton found a man in sky blue with 87% of his restarts. The main difference was what the teams did with the ball once they had it in hand. The tempo of the Dublin attack and the passing options given by support runners ensured the scoreboard was contantly ticking over. Galway on the other hand appeared to have to work much harder to create chances and pressure from Dublin defenders often lead to either turnovers or rushed snapshots from Galway attackers.
One aspect of Saturday’s match that might cause some concern for the GAA hierarchy is the fall in attendance. Only 54,716 fans were present to see the Dubs advance to their fourth final in a row. This is the lowest semi-final attendance featuring Dublin since their 1994 semi-final against Leitrim. The danger is when a team is a dominant over the opposition as the current Dublin side and the result appears to be a foregone conclusion to many fans they they’ll stay away. We’ve see this with dominant Kerry sides and Kilkenny’s hurling fans where their supporters were so confident of a semi-final win that many fans wouldn’t bother attend until the final. There is no doubt that the Dubs, and their fans, are a cash cow for the GAA. However, the more this team record facile wins over opponents the less fans will be drawn to watch a predictable spectacle. This is not a criticism of a fantastic team, rather the nature of sports fans when the result of a contest is no longer in doubt.
One feels that the Dubs need a rival or two that will really test their metal in order to prove their greatness.