HomeFootballGalway look to break out of their 90-year championship straitjacket

Galway look to break out of their 90-year championship straitjacket

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When Dublin last faced Galway in the All-Ireland series, six years ago in the semi-final, the counties hadn’t met in championship since the notorious 1983 final, which saw four players sent off before Dublin’s ‘12 Apostles’ lifted Sam Maguire.

That result is one of an extraordinary litany of setbacks for Galway in this fixture. In the 40 years since, between league and championship, they have played each other 20 times and Galway have won just twice.

Those victories, like bank holiday buses, came one after the other in 2009 and 2010 in the national league.

Seán Armstrong scored 1-2 in the first of those matches and also played in the 2018 All-Ireland semi-final. He says that players are generally enthusiastic about playing Dublin but that it was a rare enough occurrence for him.

“I played for Galway for 14 years and can only remember playing them four times.

“You want to play them in their own back yard in front of a full house, particularly when they have been as good as they have in the past decade and a half. You’re testing yourself against the best team that’s ever played the game. Players are competitors and that’s what they look forward to.

“There’s no real rivalry otherwise, because we simply don’t play them often enough to worry about not beating them in decades or for us to believe that they had a sort of voodoo over us.”

It’s a strange aspect of the relationship since 1983 that with Galway winning Connacht 15 times and Dublin having 27 Leinster titles that they have met so infrequently in the championship but the available data indicates one-way traffic.

Caprice plays a role. Have the counties just happened to be paired when Dublin had a good team?

Brian Talty has a unique perspective on the counties, having played for Galway for years, including in the 1983 All-Ireland, but having made his home in Dublin, he was also involved with the county’s teams from minor to senior.

He echoes Armstrong’s point.

“They haven’t met that often. The ones I remember were the 1974 final, the ‘76 semi-final and the ‘83 final. There was little enough in all of those games and Dublin were probably the superior team at that stage, anyway.

“Whether we actually thought we could beat them is maybe another issue. From my experience they always seemed to be a top team when we played them.”

What about 1983? Dublin had only four players from the 1970s team still involved. How did Talty’s team view that All-Ireland beforehand?

“I still think we were looking at them as Dublin. Do you know what I mean? We had played a semi-final against Donegal and we were very lucky to get over that. Dublin had a huge win in Cork but we were going quite well in the final until things started to happen.

“We went into that thinking we had a right chance because we had a good team but then you had that goal [Barney Rock lobbing the goalkeeper from a free]. I was looking at it and thinking we lost by only two points and gave away a stupid goal.

“Then when we had extra men, we didn’t use them properly. If that was today, we would have planned for all those eventualities. You didn’t have fellas up in the stands, looking at things and making calm decisions with cool heads.

“Also, when a team has three sent off, it lifts the pressure. Nobody’s going to blame you if you lose with 12 players. We weren’t prepared to have an extra man or two and our style of play didn’t even suit that.

“We just kicked a lot of ball straight into their defence – made Pat Canavan man of the match, as I tell him – when we should have worked it more and used the extra man. Tactically, Kevin Heffernan and the lads moved everyone back and left Joe McNally up front on his own.”

In 2018 Galway had enjoyed an unbeaten league campaign until the final when they lost narrowly to Dublin. That summer they defeated Kerry for the first time since the 1960s but ended up playing Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final because they lost their final Super 8s fixture against Monaghan.

“In 2018,” says Armstrong, “we drew 0-13 all in the league – should have beaten them. When we played later that year in the All-Ireland semi-final, at the back of your mind, you’re thinking, ‘hold on a minute – we should have won that game and shouldn’t fear these guys”.

As it unfolded, they had every chance to make an impact. Stephen Cluxton saved what should have been a goal and then there was a missed penalty. Overall, Galway struggled to hit 50 per cent on their conversion rate; Dublin’s was more than 70 per cent.

“On the day,” he continues, “one or two things go wrong for you. [Eamonn] Brannigan missed a penalty and stuff like that goes against you and the whole dynamic changes. I remember coming off the pitch and I was so f***ing deflated because we gave such a poor account of ourselves but I don’t think there’s any scar tissue there.”

This weekend it is nearly 90 years since Galway beat their opponents in championship – the 1934 All-Ireland final.

Will that statistic need revision by Saturday night? If not, will it be because Dublin were simply better or because that’s the way it always is?

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