Galway have deservedly beaten Cork 1-14 to 1-10 in the first of an All-Ireland qualifier double-header at Croke Park but they certainly did not make it easy for themselves. The Tribesmen enjoyed a 10-point lead by the 21st minute yet allowed Cork to come within a point in the closing stages before several late scores gave them the breathing space they needed to secure a comfortable four-point victory by the final whistle.
Galway took immediate control of this tie when they kicked over the first score through Tommy Joyce from 40 yards out. Cork struck two wides in an effort to get their first point on the scoreboard but it was Galway who looked more dangerous in front of the posts. Despite all their dominance, they only managed three points in the first quarter-hour, two of which came from Padraig Joyce who combined well with Michael Donnellan. Donnellan, playing in midfield today, kicked over shortly afterwards and in the 17th minute Joyce added his third from a free. Within a minute, Galway were up 0-06 to 0-00 when Ja Fallon kicked over and by this stage they were making the most of every chance.
Fallon added another before Seán Óg de Paor struck a brilliant goal worthy of any soccer star. The Galway wing-forward made a blistering run through the centre, keeping the ball on the ground before driving it low and hard into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. With the score now at 1-10 to 0-00, Cork needed something special to get back on track, as they looked shell-shocked by Galway's stunning start to the game. It arrived in the 26th minute when Fionan Murray netted for Cork's first score of the match and a crucial score it proved to be.
The goal seemed to settle their nerves and suddenly the Leesiders came more into the tie. For all Galway's dominance on the field by that point, they had not built up as conclusive a lead one would expect and went in at the break only six points ahead of their opponents after they failed to score for the latter 16 minutes while Cork added to their tally with a point from Colin Corkery just before half-time.
It seemed as if Cork took some solace in Galway's lack of scoring towards the end of the first half as they came out with a greater sense of purpose to their attacks. Brendan Ger O'Sullivan opened the scoring in the second-half for Cork with a wonderful point a minute after the re-start. The Corkman shrugged off the challenge of the Galway defence to dash through the centre and shoot over the bar. Another successful free by Padraig Joyce maintained Galway's six-point advantage but a long-range free from Colin Corkery kept his team in touch at 1-03 to 1-08.
In the 45th minute, Galway once again extended their lead when Michale Donnellan struck over his second point of the afternoon from a free. However, Galway were dealt a severe blow when Ja Fallon pulled up with what appeared to be a strained hamstring and was forced to withdraw with Matthew Clancy coming on in his place. As Cork pushed forward, they should have had a shot on goal after Mark O'Sullivan found his way through the Galway defence but he made the mistake of trying to get the ball up off the ground and was knocked out of his stride as Galway recovered quickly.
A free from Corkery reduced the deficit to five yet again but Paul Clancy's first point of the afternoon two minutes later put six points between the teams once more. Significantly, that was the last time Galway scored for 15 minutes as Cork produced an exciting fightback. Two more points from Corkery, and one each from Brendan Ger O'Sullivan, Podsie O'Mahoney and Fionan Murray brought Cork within a point of Galway 1-09 to 1-10 with just seven minutes remaining.
Both teams were beginning to tire and when Cork gave away a bad free on the edge of the box, Padraig Joyce stepped up to punish their slackness and extended Galway's advantage to two points with three minutes plus stoppage time remaining. That point seemed to settle Galway's jitters and when substitute John Donnellan added another point a minute later, Galway looked more assured of their victory than they had done for most of the second half. Cork kept within striking distance when Murray pointed again in added time but two more points from Galway secured their victory and a place in tonight's quarter-final draw.
Filed by Amanda Fennelly