Galway are into a first Allianz Hurling League final since 2010 after Conor Cooney’s second-half goal saw them past Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds.
Galway dominated for the most part, other than a bright start to the second-half from Limerick that closed the gap to three points. But after Cooney’s goal and five unanswered points Galway cruised to the final on a scoreline if 1-21 to 1-11.
Limerick hit 17 wides, a tally sure to annoy manager John Kiely ahead of their Munster championship semi-final against Clare in June.
Galway captain David Burke won the toss and elected to play with the advantage of the very strong wind in the first-half at the Gaelic Grounds and that decision helped his side to a 0-13 to 1-5 lead at the interval.
Like when the sides met at the same venue three weeks ago, there was a bite to the action as both teams showed great tenacity under the breaking ball, while the hits carried championship intent rather than national league politeness.
But even without the wind advantage Galway looked the better team as the points flowed from play easier than at the other end.
Two minutes in Cathal Mannion hoovered up a break off the post to score his first of three points from play before the break, while Shane Dowling responded with a free, Conor Cooney tapped over two excellent points to give Galway a 0-03 to 0-01 lead.
When the sides last met Joe Canning proved the difference between the sides with his 0-10 haul, but Declan Hannon put the shackles on him in the early stages, until he was forced from the field after 16 minutes.
His replacement Gavin O’Mahony brought some quality to the half-back line as the quality of ball into his forwards improved thereafter, although Canning then grew into the game.
By the time Hannon left Galway were 0-06 to 0-03 ahead as Padraic Mannion and Conor Whelan added points from play, but in the 20th minute Limerick’s revival was given a boost when William O’Donoghue kicked to the net after David Demspey’s clever pass sent him clear.
Galway’s response was controlled as Johnny Coen scored off Canning, before the Portumna man fired over two frees to restore Galway’s four-point lead.
A brilliant block form O’Mahony denied Canning a point on the half-hour mark and after an immediate counter attack drew a foul, Dowling added a point for the home side.
But that inspiration was fleeting for Limerick as Galway hit the last two points of the half as Canning added a free and an assist as Cathal Mannion gave Galway a five-point cushion.
Dowling missed his first free of the second-half as he struggled to judge the wind, but he hit a fine points from play a minute later to cut Galway’s advantage to four points.
But Canning added a free and David Burke hit his first of the game in the 46th minute as Galway edged further clear, only for three Limerick points in four minutes to give the home crowd some hope.
But 14 minutes from time the dream of a first league final title in 20 years disappeared when Conor Cooney crept inside the full-back line and batted past Nickie Quaid for the clincher.
Final score Galway 1-21 Limerick 1-11
Galway: C Callanan; Adrian Tuohy, J Hanbury, A Harte; P Mannion (0-01), G McInerney, Daithi Burke; J Coen (0-01), David Burke (c) (0-02); P Brehony, J Canning (0-07, 0-06f), J Cooney; C Whelan (0-02), C Mannion (0-03), C Cooney (1-04).
Subs used: T Monaghan (0-01) for Brehony (53), P Killeen for Hanbury (55), N Burke for J Cooney (63), J Flynn for Whelan (66), S Loftus for David Burke (68),
Limerick: N Quaid; R English, R McCarthy, M Casey; D Byrnes (0-01), D Hannon, S Hickey; A Dempsey, W O’Donoghue (1-00); S Dowling (0-05), D Dempsey (0-01), G Hegarty (0-01); C Lynch (0-01), K Hayes, G Mulcahy.
Subs used: G O’Mahony for Hannon (16 mins), S Finn for Hickey (38), B Nash (0-02) for Mulcahy (48), J Ryan for A Dempsey (53), J Fitzgibbon for D Dempsey (53),
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow).
Kevin Walsh’s Galway cruised to victory over Donegal to book an All Ireland Quarter-Final date against Kerry.
Galway bounced back emphatically as Johnny Heaney kicked 2-2 and Liam Silke and Danny Cummins scored their other goals in a massive win at Markievicz Park in Sligo.
They advance to face Kerry now after beating a poor Donegal side despite having Declan Kyne sent-off in the second-half. Donegal had three of their players black carded and it was a disastrous outing for them as they finished up their campaign.
Galway made a brilliant start and two quick points from Sean Armstrong and Shane Walsh gave them the early ascendency.
Michael Murphy kicked two points in the fourth and sixth minutes to tie the game up before Armstrong cancelled those out with two more of his own – the Salthill/Knocknacarra clubman was a late inclusion instead of Eamonn Brannigan for Galway.
Donegal took the lead for the first time after three points in a row by Paddy McBrearty (twice), and Michael Murphy, but Galway came alive in the second-quarter.
Galway hit 3-5 before the break while Micheal Murphy and substitute Martin McElhinney had the only reprieve for Donegal. Meanwhile Galway blitzed their opponents with Heaney fisting their first goal in the 18th minute.
Galway got their second goal in the 26th minute and it was a massive turning point when Liam Silke fired home their penalty.
Donegal goalkeeper Marc Anthony McGinley got a black card when he tripped Tom Flynn and the Corofin clubman made no mistake from the resultant penalty.
Donegal were down and out at that stage and Galway got their third goal before half-time when Heaney fisted home his second.
It was 3-9 to 0-7 in favour of Galway at the break and they kicked three quick points through Heaney, Armstrong and Gary O’Donnell at the start of the second-half.
That killed off any chance of a fight back and Donegal had Michael Murphy and Martin McElhinney black card as their challenge faded.
Having used their full complement of substitutes already Donegal finished with 13 players.
Paddy McBrearty tried to take the fight to Galway, but he missed a penalty and the rebound when Cathal Sweeney got Galway’s black card after fouling Martin O’Reilly with 11 minutes remaining.
Galway kicked on again, Micheal Meehan made his reappearance in the latter stages and then fellow substitute Danny Cummins kicked their fourth goal.
FINAL SCORE: GALWAY 4-17 DONEGAL 0-14
Scorers for Galway: Johnny Heaney 2-2, Sean Armstrong 0-6 (4fs), Liam Silke 1-0 (1-0 pen), Danny Cummins 1-0, Gary O’Donnell 0-2, Shane Walsh 0-1, Paul Conroy 0-1, Ian Burke 0-1, Damien Comer 0-1, Eamonn Brannigan 0-2, Michael Daly 0-1.
Scorers for Donegal: Paddy McBrearty 0-6 (2fs), Michael Murphy 0-4 (3fs, 145), Martin O’Reilly 0-2, Martin McElhinney 0-1, Michael Langan 0-1.
GALWAY: Bernard Power, Eoghan Kerin, Declan Kyne, Cathal Sweeney; Gary O’Donnell, Gareth Bradshaw, Liam Silke; Paul Conroy, Tom Flynn; Johnny Heaney, Micheal Daly, Sean Armstrong; Ian Burke, Damien Comer, Shane Walsh.
Subs: David Wynne for Sweeney (60, black card), Eamonn Branningan for Walsh (60), Danny Cummins for Daly (63), Michael Meehan for Comer (68), David Walsh for Bradshaw (72), Cillian McDaid for O’Donnell (72).
DONEGAL: Mark Anthony McGinley; Caolan Ward, Kieran Gillespie, Neil McGee; Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Ryan McHugh, Paddy McGrath; Jason McGee, Michael Murphy; Mark McHugh, Eoin McHugh, Frank McGlynn; Jamie Brennan, Hugh McFadden, Patrick McBrearty.
Subs: Peter Boyle for McGinley (25, black card), Michael Langan for Brennan (35), Martin McElhinney for McGlynn (36), Karl Lacey for Gillespie (half-time), Ciaran Thompson for McFadden (42), Martin O’Reilly for E McHugh (42).
REFEREE: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).