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Galway end a 21-year wait to reach an All-Ireland final as Damien Comer is the hero

Comer with two second-half goals that made victory safe and extended Galway’s perfect championship record against Derry
GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 9/7/2022
Galway vs Derry
Galway’s Damien Comer celebrates scoring the first goal of the game 
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final, Croke Park, Dublin 9/7/2022 Galway vs Derry Galway’s Damien Comer celebrates scoring the first goal of the game Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne© ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Dermot CroweIndependent.ie

Out of the more novel semi-final corridor has emerged Galway, bolting into a first All-Ireland final since 2001 where they will face the favourites, be they Dublin or Kerry.

Who would bet against them at this stage? Having survived a gripping quarter-final with Armagh that went to penalties, they rolled up their sleeves in anticipation of another rigorous test of character from the Ulster champions, but they ended up winning with a degree of comfort in a semi-final watched by 68,830.

Galway were the slightest of outsiders, based on a tendency to hit spells of damaging inconsistency, coughing up scores and making errors when games seemed safe and done. They conceded an injury-time goal to Lachlann Murray here too but it was of little impact at that stage, being of mere consolation value to Derry.

The hero of Galway's evening was Damien Comer with two second-half goals that made victory safe and extended Galway’s perfect championship record against Derry to four games. They also defeated them in the crucial Division 2 promotion meeting in Owenbeg in March.

Having fallen three points behind after just 12 minutes, and taken 22 minutes to score, Galway got back on level terms by the interval and then took over in the second half, with three early frees from Shane Walsh putting them into the lead for the first time.

The key moment came from their best forward when Comer goaled in the 46th minute, spinning free of the attentions of Brendan Rogers and planting a low shot past Odhran Lynch to open up a six-point lead. Derry had no answer and their cause was completely lost when Comer struck for a remarkable second goal in the 64th minute.

Conor Glass, who had a subdued performance, got turned over and with Lynch stranded from his goal, Galway countered. Liam Silke hit Comer with a foot pass and he sent the ball into an empty net from around 40m.

Comer went off the field to a huge reception from the Galway crowd four minute later having scored 2-2, easily Galway’s best forward.

The sides were level at 0-4 a piece at half time, with Derry starting the game well but then hitting a lull period when the team’s shooting and decision-making began to betray them. But their early play exuded confidence and assurance, the Ulster champions building a 0-3 to 0-0 lead by the 12th minute. Two of those points came from Rogers, momentarily taking leave of his defensive duties in marking Comer. Niall Loughlin showed lovely footwork to create the other early score and Derry were up and running.

Then they veered off track. From the 12th minute to half time, including four minutes for stoppages, they added only one more point. After a 20-minute scoreless stretch Shane McGuigan finally eased the strain with a pointed free, a dubious award after Gareth McKinless was adjudged to have been fouled after ducking into his opponent.

McGuigan had a quiet opening half, tightly marked by Liam Silke and was nothing like the player who devastated Clare in the quarter finals. But the Connacht champions took a long time to settle, shooting early wides and losing possession against a tightly packed Derry defence, in which Conor McCluskey totally erased the influence of Walsh. The Galway forward’s first attempted score came from a 45 won by Comer in first-half injury time, but after initially being given, a request for Hawk-Eye ended in the score being chalked off.

Then in a dramatic twist, it was announced at the start of the second half that Walsh’s effort was in fact good and the scoreline of Derry 0-4, Galway 0-3, was adjusted to leave the sides tied.

Just before the half time whistle John Daly, who had an excellent match, set up Comer for a score, which ultimately levelled the match at the break. Comer was one of the few Galway forwards to make headway in the opening period. He had their first score of the match in the 22nd minute when breaking through thick Derry cover. Daly pointed seven minutes later as Derry’s play began to lose its earlier cohesion, with their wide count rising to five and one effort dropping short.

They created a goal chance 11 minutes into the game after a slick move set up Paul Cassidy but his effort was met by a diving block from Kieran Molloy and Galway cleared the danger. For much of the half Derry camped in the Galway half with their goalkeeper, Lynch, playing mostly between his own 45 and 65m lines.

Scorers: Galway - D Comer 2-2; S Walsh 0-4 (0-3 fs, 0-1 45); J Daly, J Heaney 0-1. Derry - S McGuigan 0-3 (0-2 fs); L Murray 1-0; B Rogers 0-2; N Loughlin 0-1.

Galway: C Gleeson; L Silke, S Kelly, J Glynn; D McHugh, J Daly, K Molloy; P Conroy, M Tierney; P Kelly, M Tierney, J Heaney; R Finnerty, D Comer, S Walsh.

Subs: F O Laoi for Heaney (61); B Mannion for Comer (68); D Connelly for Finnerty (68); Paul Kelly for Patrick Kelly (72).

Derry: O Lynch; C McCluskey, B Rogers, C McKaigue; C Doherty, S Downey, P McGrogan; G McKinless, C Glass; P Cassidy, S McGuigan, E Doherty; B Heron, N Loughlin, N Toner.

Subs: E Bradley for Downey (44); L Murray for Toner (56); B McCarron for Herrn (61).

Referee: B Cawley (Kildare).


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