herald

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Galway are used to facing 14 - but are they experts at it?

Niall Scully is shown a red card by referee Anthony Nolan during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Dublin and Galway at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Niall Scully is shown a red card by referee Anthony Nolan during the Allianz Football League Division 1 Final match between Dublin and Galway at Croke Park. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

There has been much recent debate about the proliferation of players receiving their marching orders against the Galway footballers this season.

This topic was red hot (boom boom!) even before Monaghan duo Drew Wylie and Colin Walshe picked up second yellows in the dying minutes of last Saturday's clash in Pearse Stadium.

If you read between the lines - and sometimes you don't even need any such powers of inference - the message seems to be that Galway are experts at winding up the opposition.

We can already perceive Kevin Walsh's retort - in the same way that Donald Trump has a perpetual bee in his bonnet over "FAKE NEWS!!!", the Galway boss has a particular disdain for "lazy punditry".

So we won't go there ... but rather, we'd like to examine whether his Galway team are actually any good at playing against 14 men.

Theory

Why? Because, if history is to repeat itself in Croke Park this Saturday, there's a fair chance they could finish their All-Ireland semi-final against 14 Dubs. Which all sounds promising in Tribal theory, but maybe less so in practice.

First up, a quick 'red mist' roll call. Six men were sent off against Galway during their eight-match league campaign - Tyrone's Darren McCurry, Mayo's Cillian O'Connor, Monaghan's Fintan Kelly and Dublin's Eoghan O'Gara all received straight reds while Mayo's Diarmuid O'Connor and Dublin's Niall Scully walked for second yellows.

Onto Connacht where O'Connor the Younger (Diarmuid) endured the dubious distinction of being sent off twice in the one season against the same team, this time on a straight red. Galway did finish, with a flourish, against 15 men of Sligo and Roscommon ... but all three of their Super 8 games ended against numerically challenged rivals.

Killian Young of Kerry and Kildare's Daniel Flynn were both tugged by an opponent and reacted with a lashing motion that met with a straight red after the flashpoints were brought to the attention of the referee. Not everyone agreed - most especially a furious Kildare boss Cian O'Neill.

The late dismissals of Wylie and Walshe (along with Galway skipper Damien Comer) brought to five the number who have been red-carded against the Tribesmen this summer, and 11 across league and championship.

But we can pinpoint only one game where the outcome appears to have been decisively affected as a result: in Salthill back in March, Monaghan led by 0-7 to 0-5 coming up to half-time when a retaliatory kick from Kelly led to his red and the reversing of a scoreable free. Galway duly took over in the third-quarter and ran out comfortable four-point winners.

Reckless

You could also argue that Diarmuid O'Connor's red card last May (reckless and without provocation) was central to a three-point win ... albeit Galway already led by a point when the Mayo man departed on the half-hour and still required an injury-time goal to claim victory.

Otherwise, though, Galway haven't quite sparkled with the extra man. They led Dublin by two points when O'Gara walked after 70 minutes in Salthill, and yet required a last-gasp equaliser as that game descended into anarchy.

More pointedly, in the league final, they trailed Dublin by just two points when Scully departed on 50 minutes. Instead of being a cue to push on, they ended up losing by four.

If it happens again, here's one lesson of recent history they cannot ignore.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News