All Ireland Senior Football Championship Semi-Final – Galway 2-8 Derry 1-6
Following 21 years of watching and wondering, Galway footballers delivered on the grand Croke Park stage.
A first All Ireland final since 2001 beckons for Pádraic Joyce’s team, who shrugged off Derry’s resistance on a sultry evening in the capital.
Diligent defensively throughout, Galway just had more attacking craft with Damien Comer’s two second half goals decisive.
In the dying embers of this battle at GAA headquarters, Comer was withdrawn to rapturous applause.
It was a stirring moment for the maroon and white with Comer spearheading this victory.
At the opposite end of the pitch captain Seán Kelly contributed another wholehearted display, while John Daly’s excellence was another key factor.
Initially Galway had encountered some difficulty failing to land any scores from their first five shots.
During that spell Rory Gallagher’s Derry registered three points with Brendan Rogers nailing two either side of a Niall Loughlin effort.
Inevitably Comer was the Galway player to respond mining a 22nd minute point and by the time the interval rolled around the teams were level at 0-4 each.
Hawk-Eye had ruled a Shane Walsh 45 on the cusp of half-time was wide, but the officials awarded a score ensuring the issue was delicately poised.
Galway, though, then struck 1-3 without reply which was a significant flurry in such a tight game.
Walsh converted three frees on the spin before Comer made the Derry net dance with a 46th minute major.
Suddenly Derry were under severe duress, but Galway forced turnovers and restricted the Ulster standard bearers.
Shane McGuigan’s pointed free terminated a 14 minute search for a second half Derry score, but Galway summoned a reply.
Johnny Heaney fisted over a point and then Comer sealed the deal with a 68th minute goal.
Derry goalkeeper Odhran Lynch had ventured upfield, but when Galway won possession back they moved the ball forward briskly with Liam Silke’s pass locating Comer.
The Annaghdown attacker subsequently supplied an opportunistic finish and Galway’s final passage had been secured.
Deep into stoppage time Derry substitute Lachlan Murray pinched a goal, but sufficient Galwegian damage had been inflicted.
Joyce, so influential as a prolific forward in 1998 and 2001, has guided Galway to a national decider.
Scorers for Galway: Damien Comer 2-2, Shane Walsh 0-4 (3fs, 145), John Daly and Johnny Heaney 0-1 each.
Scorers for Derry: Lachlan Murray 1-0, Shane McGuigan 0-3 (2fs), Brendan Rogers 0-2, Niall Loughlin 0-1.
GALWAY: Connor Gleeson; Liam Silke, Seán Kelly, Jack Glynn; Dylan McHugh, John Daly, Kieran Molloy; Paul Conroy, Cillian McDaid; Patrick Kelly, Matthew Tierney, Johnny Heaney; Rob Finnerty, Damien Comer, Shane Walsh.
Subs: Finnian Ó Laoi for Heaney (60), Billy Mannion for Comer (68), Dessie Conneely for Finnerty (68), Paul Kelly for Patrick Kelly (70).
DERRY: Odhran Lynch; Conor McCluskey, Brendan Rogers, Chrissy McKaigue; Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless, Padraig McGrogan; Conor Glass, Ethan Doherty; Paul Cassidy, Shea Downey, Niall Toner; Benny Heron, Shane McGuigan, Niall Loughlin.
Subs: Emmett Bradley for Downey (44), Lachlan Murray for Toner (55), Ben McCarron for Heron (60).
REFEREE: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).
By Cian O’Connell at Croke Park