Defiant Galway ladies stun All-Ireland champions as Ward leads the way

Galway 3-7

Dublin 1-12

(After extra-time)

IF you were to take at face value the general pre-match synopsis of Saturday evening’s All-Ireland senior ladies football quarter-final, you’d be left wondering should Galway even bother turning up at Parnell Park.

To all intents and purposes, the outcome was a done deal. Dublin were unbackable favourites at 1/12 to remain on course for a sixth All-Ireland title in eight years after laying waste to all challengers to date.

Trying to cause one of the sporting shocks of the year was a Galway team which had suffered league demotion and had blown a five-point lead against Cork in the group stages of the championship. Having also to face the title holders in their own backyard only added to the sense than Daniel Moynihan’s charges were on a hiding to nothing.

And when the athletic hosts surged into an early 0-4 to 0-1 lead despite spurning some clear-cut chances, the scale of Galway’s task in trying to upset the odds was alarmingly apparent. Were they in over their heads?

But by the end of a marathon and thrilling contest, it was the Tribeswomen who were celebrating arguably the county’s greatest win bar the county’s lone All-Ireland triumph of 2004. What they achieved at Parnell Park was that momentous.

Led by the brilliant Nicola Ward and drawing some inspiration from the Galway men stunning Dublin the previous weekend at the same stage of their championship, the challengers from the west were simply heroic in securing a semi-final place against Cork.

Galway produced a titanic performance, highlighted by an extraordinary work ethic, a never-say die spirit and being able to come up with the answers in the clutch moments of a compelling battle.

Three times they carved open the Dublin cover for timely goals, including the dramatic match-winner from substitute Aoife O’Rourke four minutes from the end of extra-time. Their first two had come from the long-serving Roisín Leonard who again underlined her predator’s instincts on the big stage.

It was no surprise that the Dublin camp was shell-shocked afterwards even if the champions already knew by the interval, this quarter-final was not going to be the expected walk in the park,

True, they were missing one of their star players in the injured Carla Rowe, were guilty of 11 wides – Galway only had four – and may have been a touch complacent, but their routine run to the last eight had left them ill-prepared for the intensity of the women in maroon jerseys.

Galway refused to give up. They never wilted under Dublin pressure or when defender Aoife Ni Cheallaigh picked up a black card in a match where Kerry referee Seamus Mulvihill tried to turn the game into a non-contact spectacle.

Pictured: Galway’s Aoife Ni Cheallaigh getting the better of Dublin’s Niamh Hetherton during the All-Ireland Senior Ladies Football quarter-final at Parnell Park: Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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