CIARAN TIERNEY AT PEARSE STADIUM
THE lack of a killer instinct up front when they had the backing of the strong breeze in the second half meant the Galway hurlers had to settle for a draw when they really needed a win over a gritty Cork side to haul themselves off the bottom of the Allianz NHL Division 1A table at Pearse Stadium on Sunday.
In what is shaping up to be an extremely competitive division, with just two points separating top from bottom, the Tribesmen appeared to be on their way to victory when a superb Cyril Donnellan goal gave them a four point lead 15 minutes into the second half.
But the dearth of scoring options in this Galway side so far in 2013 was evident again as the Tribesmen could only muster up two Joe Canning frees in the closing 20 minutes, while an admirably spirited Cork side set about battling back for a deserved draw.
The result means bottom of the table Galway will have to register a victory from their last outing down in Waterford – rarely a happy hunting ground for the Tribesmen – if they are to avoid the relegation play-off for the second year running next weekend.
More worryingly, if you took the brilliance of Canning, the work-rate of a lively Davey Glennon, and the battling qualities of Cyril Donnellan out of the attack, the lack of fire-power up front in the four League games so far has been a cause for concern.
It would appear the return of the St Thomas’ contingent could not come soon enough for a side who have appeared off the pace in the last three games, even though the team management insist their focus is all on getting the All-Ireland runners-up in the right shape for the Summer battles to come.
There is no need to panic in March. But they should have won here, given that they were trailing by just 1-7 to 1-6 at half-time. A wasteful Cork side hit ten first half wides, but strong winds don’t win matches and Galway lacked enough scoring options to put the Munster men away after the break.
At times it was frustrating to watch, as the men in maroon left just two men up in the danger zone while things were far too congested further back the field.
Backed by a 6,000 strong crowd, the Tribesmen enjoyed a good start and led by 0-3 to 0-2 after 11 minutes, thanks to three Canning scores – including two superb efforts from play.
Cork had mustered up a Patrick Horgan free and a good point from impressive midfielder Lorcan McLoughlin, who seemed to run at will through the Galway defence before planting a fine effort between the posts.
Further scores from centre back Patrick Cronin and attacker Paudie O’Sullivan saw the Rebels take the lead by the end of the first quarter, but a litany of squandered chances ensured they should have been further in front before Cronin missed a glorious goal chance on 20 minutes.
Then Cork looked to be in trouble when Glennon, who had been fed a fine ball by Canning, scored an excellent goal on the run at the other end barely a minute later to put the home side back in front.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.