By Mark Jones
Galway just can’t stop winning and not even the fact that Derek Savage’s vital point came right at the death will wipe the collective smile off John O’Mahony’s players.
A 0-13 to 0-12 success over Donegal at a buoyant Tuam and a second National League victory to add to the summer of Sam Maguire glory.
Competitive instincts are not supposed to be finely tuned in the early stages of the League, but with 12,000 packed into Tuam Stadium and Donegal crackling with purpose, this was a contest to remember.
Donegal had every reason to feel satisfied with their afternoon’s effort when they deservedly led by two points with time almost up. However, Galway now clearly have the winning habit and clinical points by Jarlath Fallon and Paul Clancy leveled matters in the blink of an eye before Savage hand-passed the decisive score to leave the Westerners the only unbeaten team in Div. 1A.
If the defeat was hard to take, Donegal’s manager, Declan Bonner, was also fuming over a late foul on midfielder Jimmy McGuinness that went unpunished and allowed Savage his chance.
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"I was totally unhappy with the referee," Bonner said. "We felt too many decisions were going against us and Jimmy was tugged at the end. He should have got a free."
Dublin, Armagh draw
There was more relief than anger elsewhere as Dublin earned a reprieve at the Athletic Grounds when Declan Darcy came off the bench to kick a long-range free which left Armagh ruing a 1-11 to 0-14 draw.
Playing for the entire second half with 14 men following Paul Croft’s dismissal for an off-the-ball offense, Dublin had every reason to be pleased with the result.
Armagh seemed to have the game in the bag when Jarlath Burns crashed home a goal just after the interval, yet they were not able to capitalize on the extra man and Darcy made them pay with his pinpoint free with only 40 seconds remaining.
Cork clip Leitrim
Cork added a win to their draw in the first series of matches when they overcame Leitrim by 2-11 to 1-8 at Pairc Ui Rinn. Two first-half goals by Alan O’Regan and Brendan O’Sullivan secured the victory. However, Cork never hit top form against a Leitrim side that continues to struggle.
Tyrone, Offaly deadlock
Tyrone were fortunate to escape with a 0-7 apiece draw against Offaly at Pomeroy as the visitors failed to capitalize on two goal chances in the closing stages. A shot by sub James Stewart was tipped over by goalkeeper Finbarr McConnell and then Padraig Moran’s drive was somehow taken off the line by Chris Lawn.
In Div. 1B, it looked for quite a while as if Monaghan would suffer the ignominy of failing to score a single point in Navan as Meath cruised to a facile second successive win. In the end, Monaghan managed a couple of scores, but Meath were able to stroll home by 1-13 to 0-2.
In fairness to the losers, their paltry return wasn’t due to a lack of effort. More simply, it was appalling finishing which let them down and time and time again, the Monaghan forwards were guilty of embarrassing wides.
By contrast, Meath, who now top the division, were full of energy and efficiency. From the excellent Darren Fay at the back to Ollie Murphy in attack, Sean Boylan’s men looked in good fettle for this stage of the campaign.
Although it needed a late Willie McCreery point to tie the scores at 0-8 each, there was never much between the champions of Ulster and Leinster at Ballinascreen. If anything, unbeaten Kildare had the better of the exchanges, but they missed several opportunities and the Derry forwards took theirs.
Laois offered their new manager, Tom Cribbin, some hope for the future when they almost secured a win over Mayo at Graiguecullen. It finished 1-8 to 0-11, with Danny Doogue scoring the goal, and if Laois hadn’t made such a sloppy start, they would surely have overhauled Mayo, for whom Maurice Sheridan bagged six points.
A superb goal as well as four long-range frees by Gregory McCartan settled the issue for Down at Newry as Clare slipped up again. The final scoreline of 1-10 to 0-11 left an understrength Clare with some consolation, but with no points from two games.
Meanwhile, Roscommon continued their impressive form in Div. 2A with a crushing 3-13 to 0-7 win over Limerick. Wicklow got the better of London by 1-7 to 0-5, Kerry were 1-9 to 1-4 winners against Louth and Antrim predictably saw off Kilkenny by 3-13 to 0-4.
Victories for Cavan, Carlow and Wexford made it a three way tie at the top of Div. 2B. Cavan were too good for Waterford by 3-13 to 1-9, Carlow edged past Tipperary by 2-5 to 1-7 and there was also a close call as Wexford ran out 2-9 to 0-14 winners over Longford. In the division’s final game, Fermanagh and Sligo played out a 0-8 apiece draw.
Kilkenny appoint Cody
Former star of the 1970s and ’80s, Brian Cody, has been appointed as Kilkenny’s hurling manager for a two-year period. A four-time All Ireland winner, Cody takes over from Kevin Fennelly, who resigned in September.
Athenry cruised to success in the Connacht hurling final when they hammered Tooreen by 3-25 to 0-6 and the Ulster title went to Ballygalget who defeated Ballycastle by 1-14 to 1-12 after extra-time. St. Joseph’s won the Clare county championship for the first time in 40 years when ran out 3-9 to 2-7 winners over Kilmaley.