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Leinster SHC: Spoils divided at Croke Park

Declan McLoughlin, Galway, and John Bellew, in Leinster SHC action at Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Declan McLoughlin, Galway, and John Bellew, in Leinster SHC action at Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship

Dublin 2-22 Galway 1-25

By Paul Keane at Croke Park

On madcap days like these, hurling doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.

Galway may have qualified for the Leinster SHC final, just about as everyone expected, but the manner of their progression was anything but routine as Henry Shefflin's Jekyll and Hyde crew remarkably came from 12 points down to rescue a thrilling Croke Park draw.

Trailing by 10 points at half-time and 12 early in the second-half, it looked as if a surprise win for Dublin was on the cards which, potentially, could have sent Micheal Donoghue's men through to the June 11 final themselves.

But, a decade after their last provincial triumph, Dublin couldn't hold on and were reeled in during a frantic final half hour or so as resurgent Galway, inspired by goalscorer Daithi Burke, did just about enough to escape.

Truth be told, Shefflin will be fuming with his team's first-half performance and the 16 wides they blasted overall but the second-half display at least gives them vital momentum heading into the decider against Kilkenny.

Evan Niland's 10 points were crucial and it looked, for a matter of seconds at least, as if he may be the matchwinner when the free-taker shot Galway ahead in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

But there was one last kick from a Dublin side that largely collapsed in the second-half in the form of a Donal Burke point from a free which meant the game ended in stalemate.

It all means that Dublin finish third in the table and will advance to an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final.

They will kick themselves because a memorable first-half when almost everything went Dublin's way looked as if it had laid the platform for a famous win.

Dublin were certainly the dominant team at that stage and their natural pace suited the big pitch.

But they got a big helping hand from a Galway side that made an alarming number of errors.

Leaving players of the calibre of Cian Boland and Mark Grogan in acres of space was a big problem.

And while midfielder Joseph Cooney struck four first-half points, the inside forwards got little joy from any of their individual battles with the Dublin defenders.

Shefflin must have winced too as the westerners essentially handed the two goals to Dublin on a plate.

Cian O'Sullivan's first in the ninth minute was a bizarre moment as the Dublin attacker shortened the hurl to avoid being hooked but miscued a point attempt that somehow dropped in over the goalkeeper's ahead.

The second goal was an even greater nightmare from Galway's perspective. Cooney Cooney, tracking back deep in his own defence and trying to work a ball across his own goal face, failed to pick out a Galway man and Danny Sutcliffe intercepted before blasting from close range to the net.

As if to underline just how tuned in Dublin were, Sutcliffe immediately gestured to his fellow forwards to be alive to the threat of a short puck-out.

That sort of ultra intensity and appetite for destruction was evident throughout the pitch. Free-taker Burke, one of nine different Dublin scorers in the first-half, showed the breadth of his talent with the opening score of the game from close to the left sideline and, later in the half, split the posts with an effort from next to the right sideline.

Everything seemed to be dropping over for the Dubs, even a monster effort from Conor Burke that dropped just a couple of inches beyond the crossbar.

It all added up to a whopping 10-point, 2-16 to 0-12, half-time lead for the hosts who stretched the gap to a dozen points after a bright start to the second-half.

A couple of unlikely Burke wides from frees suggested that nerves were kicking in though.

Sensing opportunity, Galway pushed on to finally give themselves a foothold in the game.

Between the 44th and 52nd minutes they held Dublin scoreless and put 1-4 on the board themselves. Man of the Match Daithi Burke slammed home the goal from close range after a probing run down the left. They should have had a second goal but Conor Cooney's 47th minute strike from a penalty, awarded following a foul by Conor Burke on sub Brian Concannon, was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Sean Brennan.

By the hour mark, Galway had whittled Dublin's lead down to just four points. A sense of inevitability crept across proceedings as Galway slowly but surely picked off the points to eventually wipe out the deficit entirely in the 69th minute.

Niland's 10th point of the afternoon in the 75th minute nudged them ahead and looked like being the winner but Na Fianna man Burke came to Dublin's rescue with that late, late leveller.

Scorers for Dublin: Donal Burke 0-10 (0-6f, 0-1 65), Danny Sutcliffe 1-2, Cian O'Sullivan 1-1, Cian Boland 0-3, Eoghan O'Donnell 0-2, Mark Grogan 0-1, Daire Gray 0-1, Conor Donohoe 0-1, Conor Burke 0-1.

Scorers for Galway: Evan Niland 0-10 (0-6f), Joseph Cooney 0-5, Daithi Burke 1-0, Kevin Cooney 0-3, Tom Monaghan 0-3, Ronan Glennon 0-1, Fintan Burke 0-1, Eanna Murphy 0-1 (0-1f), Jason Flynn 0-1.

Dublin: Sean Brennan; John Bellew, Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O'Donnell; Conor Burke, Paddy Doyle, Daire Gray; Mark Grogan, Conor Donohoe; Sean Currie, Chris O'Leary, Cian Boland; Danny Sutcliffe, Cian O'Sullivan, Donal Burke.

Subs: Alex Considine for O'Leary 56, Dara Purcell for O'Sullivan 64, Paul Crummey for Boland 67, James Madden for Donohoe 68, Fergal Whitely for Grogan 74.

Galway: Eanna Murphy; TJ Brennan, Gearoid McInerney, Darren Morrissey; Padraic Mannion, Daithi Burke, Fintan Burke; Joseph Cooney, Ronan Glennon; Conor Cooney, Tom Monaghan, Evan Niland; Kevin Cooney, Conor Whelan, Declan McLoughlin.

Subs: Brian Concannon for McLoughlin h/t, Jack Grealish for Brennan h/t, Sean Linnane for F Burke 43, Jason Flynn for Glennon 49, Liam Collins for C Cooney 64.

Referee: Paud O'Dwyer (Carlow).