Galway edge home thanks to a moment of magic from sharpshooter Walsh

Galway 1-12

Westmeath 0-11

THERE are only so many times a team can get lucky. In a series of tight championship games in 2024, Galway footballers continue to find a way to get over the line.

Robert Finnerty’s stoppage-time goal had bailed them out of trouble against Sligo in the Connacht semi-final, before goalkeeper Darren Gleeson’s booming late long-range free overhauled Mayo in the provincial decider.

There was more late drama in Mullingar in front of an approximate 8,000 crowd on Sunday. Again, the outcome was in balance; again, Galway were the ones who were able to pull out that bit extra in carrying the day.

Sure, they were the beneficiaries of good fortune when Shane Walsh intercepted a wayward Ray Connellan pass on the 65m line in the 67th minute before careering away and blasting the ball to the net, but it was the latest example of Galway holding their nerve when the pressure was at its greatest.

Again, injuries stalked their challenge for a repeat of last year’s group qualifier. Again, Westmeath were hugely competitive; again, they were a little unlucky; again, their well-structured defensive system frustrated the Tribesmen; again, they lost narrowly.

With the luckless Damien Comer, Seán Kelly, and Rob Finnerty all notable absentees due to injury, Sunday’s clash at Cusack Park was never going to be a walk in the park for Galway. They needed others to pick up the slack. Step forward Matthew Tierney.

Straight from the throw-in, the Oughterard clubman threw down the gauntlet. He powered through the Westmeath cover only to see Cein D’Arcy’s goal attempt denied at the expense of a ’45 which Gleeson converted.

In a low-scoring contest, Tierney landed two crucial points, including remarkably their first second-half score from play in the 61st minute to draw the teams’ level for the seventh time.

It was that kind of claustrophobic match, with Westmeath nearly always defending with 15 players behind the ball on a day outstanding centre-back Ronan Wallace, James Donnellan, Charlie Drumm, the unfortunate Connellan, Andy McCormack and Sam McCartan led their resistance.

Pictured: Galway’s Cian Hernon preparing to challenge Westmeath defender Jamie Gounard during Sunday’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship clash in Mullingar. Photos: Joe Keane.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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