Dublin are caught on the finishing line by Galway
LEINSTER SHC QUARTER-FINAL
FINE, tight margins. What if, for instance, David Treacy has scored that free - as he had the other ten placed balls taken in Croke Park yesterday - between the uprights at the Hill 16 end, rather than errantly left of Colm Callanan's right hand post in the 69th minute?
A missed score that would have put Dublin two up on Galway in the most claustrophobic of finishes to their gritty, tense Leinster SHC quarter-final.
Or what if Joe Canning - so off his top form yesterday as to be almost unrecognisable - had put away a goal in the first half from just five metres out instead of snatching wide, having done the hard part by dispossessing Peter Kelly on the edge of the Dublin square?
The scores were level then (0-10 to 1-7) but the concession of a second goal so soon after the first, having done some fairly Trojan hurling to pull back the deficit, might well have broken Dublin.
He didn't. And neither did Treacy.
And thus, we were left with a draw, following Aidan Harte's 70th minute equaliser, and all the anticlimax and what-could-have-beens that come attached.
"Disappointed not to win it at the same time, you know," shrugged Ger Cunningham.
"We are still there, still to fight another day."
"In fairness to him, he had some phenomenal scores," added the Dublin manager about Treacy, whose only mistake in the game was the one mentioned earlier.
"He got one from play that was a fantastic score, he'll bounce back again.
"These things happen. We had other chances in the game we didn't take.
"Both teams had similar stats in the game, same kind of wides and that kind of stuff. It was a tight game."
Mitigation for Canning was forthcoming from Anthony Cuningham.
"He came into the game with a very serious hand injury," his manager outlined.
"Probably affected his ability to catch and strike.
"But he'd have been personally disappointed with his contribution and I'm sure Joe will turn that around, knowing the professional that he is."
Neither Dublin nor Galway tend to do soft landings and with the consequences of defeat almost unbearable for either side, it was always likely that this game would feel a little stiff around the shoulders.
Next Saturday, in O'Connor Park Tullamore (4.45), we should see a truer expression of the abilities of both sides but both managers will analyse an identical situation this week.
Both will know their team is capable of much, much more but both will be quietly disappointed they didn't show it when it mattered yesterday.
At 0-5 to 0-2 after 16 minutes and with a couple of key individual battles going their way, Galway looked the quicker to acclimatise to summer. At 1-6 to 0-3 after 20, Dublin just looked plainly in trouble.
Yet they found it in themselves to claim the next four points, a belated show of fluidity, but couldn't quite maintain it.
Mark Schutte did most of the damage for Dublin, scoring three points but directly assisting another four.
He had Johnny Coen in all kinds of trouble but wasn't quite so frantic in the second half in the company of Pádraig Mannion.
"We showed great composure," added Ger Cunningham.
"In the first half it looked like we could have been under pressure, we were being opened up a few times but I thought we came back."
Cunningham went with Alan Nolan in goals, a mildly surprising call given his selection of Gary Maguire in Dublin's last two matches of the National League, but in hindsight, not a bad one.
He made a couple of key saves but couldn't get a preventative hand/hurley to Joseph Cooney's brilliantly placed shot for goal in the 19th minute.
Nolan's puckouts weren't having the desired effect, however, by virtue of Galway dropping their half-forwards into the space in front of both of his primary targets, Liam Rushe and Danny Sutcliffe. Conversely, Colm Callanan frequently carried his restarts over a Dublin half-back line that often drifted forward with their men.
It meant that Dublin were forced to work harder for their scores than Galway for theirs.
"Galway are a big physical side, they have some big men around the place," commented the Dublin manager.
"But it was that kind of game, it was a physical battle, I thought we struggled on the breaking ball in the first half but I think we improved in the second half."
They did. And both Rushe and Sutcliffe found some space.
Rushe won three puckouts when it counted (including the prelude to the free missed by Treacy) and Sutcliffe finished with three points but Galway will be pleased with the scale of the damage inflicted by both.
The second half was tit for tat, Dublin only ever going as far as two points ahead but it seemed from a long way out that the two were magnetically aligned and the draw, a fair - if equally unsatisfactory - result.
For Dublin, the relief will be in knowing that they got Galway on a day when their best hurler was completely out of whack.
The worry will be that, bar a brilliant first half save from Callanan on Cronin, they didn't create a goal chance.
Cyril Donnellan saw too much ball early on and with injuries, they may be forced to field a totally unfamiliar full-back line next weekend.
The winner will be forced to play three weekends in succession, but that's worked for Dublin before and the consequences of defeat now feel multiplied after the draw no-one wanted.
"Dublin beat us in Tullamore during John McIntyre's reign (June 2011)," pointed out Anthony Cunningham afterwards.
"We'd like to put that straight."
SCORERS - Dublin: D Treacy 0-11 (8f, 2 '65), M Schutte, D Sutcliffe 0-3 each, L Rushe 0-2, J McCaffrey 0-1. Galway: J Canning 0-6 (4f, 1 '65), C Donnellan, C Mannion 0-3 each, J Cooney 1-0, J Flynn, A Harte 0-2 each, A Smith 0-1.
DUBLIN: A Nolan 7; C O'Callaghan 8, P Kelly 6, S Durkin 7; C Crummey 7, C Keaney 6, S Lambert 6; J McCaffrey 6, R O'Dwyer 6; D Sutcliffe 7, C Cronin 6, L Rushe 7; D O'Callaghan 6, M Schutte 8, D Treacy 7. Subs: M Carton 7 for Kelly (36 inj), D O'Connell 7 for Cronin (49), P Ryan 6 for O'Dwyer (65), S Barrett for C O'Callaghan (72 inj).
GALWAY: C Callanan 7; P Mannion 8, J Coen 5, J Hanbury 6; D Collins 7, I Tannian 7, G McInerney 7; J Cooney 6, A Harte 7; A Smith 6, C Donnellan 8, J Glynn 5; C Mannion 7, J Canning 5, J Flynn 7. Subs: G Lally 6 for McInerney (53), P Brehony 6 for Cooney (59), D Burke for Smith (66), P Killeen for Tannian (69), N Healy for Canning (72).
REF: J McGrath (Westmeath)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mark Schutte (Dublin).