Major blow for Galway as Padraic Joyce set to be without two key men for Armagh showdown

Skipper Seán Kelly, Damien Comer (both muscle injuries) and Rob Finnerty (knee) were all absent for today’s fraught but vital 1-12 to 0-11 victory over Westmeath in Mullingar.

And afterwards their manager admitted it would take a miracle to have Kelly or Comer back for the Armagh showdown, although he clarified that Finnerty “might for okay” for that game.

The winners will top their group and advance directly to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

“They are injured and they are out. They missed this game and they will probably miss the next game as well unless they make a miraculous recovery,” Joyce said.

“They are working hard with the S&C lads and Yvonne, the physio. It is just unfortunate. All we can do is move on and work with the lads we have.

“It is never-ending injuries, unfortunately. We are not alone in that. Everyone is picking up injuries, every county. The problem is if you get a niggle now, you are missing two games.”

Galway looked poised to top the same group last year, only to be leapfrogged by Armagh who pipped them in injury-time in Carrick-on-Shannon. They are still awaiting official word on this year’s neutral venue, with Navan and Cavan touted as possibilities.

Joyce stressed the importance of going direct, saying: “With the injuries you have, it is one less game. Obviously both teams will go to top the group. Yeah, we’ll be trying to win it.”

For Westmeath, it was a case of what might have been, after Ray Connellan’s square pass around midfield was intercepted by Shane Walsh, who accelerated through for the game-breaking 67th minute goal. The sides were deadlocked, 0-10 apiece, at the time.

Late in the first half, Westmeath had been denied a potential three-pointer of their own when marauding half-back Ronan Wallace bore down on goal only to be pushed over by Cein Darcy. Under strict interpretation of the rule it was not a black card offence, as it wasn’t a pull-down – and consequently not a ‘black card penalty’, albeit it was a goal chance.

But Dessie Dolan expressed general dissatisfaction with the officiating that Westmeath have encountered in the All-Ireland series.

“I’ll tell you one thing about referees that we find anyway, in a lot of these games we seem to be the ones that you’d be head-scratching and wondering where the free was,” the Westmeath boss said.

“I’ll give an example: last week against Armagh, they got a shot away, Jason Daly saved it and we were coming out with the ball and it’s a free in. And it’s a prime example of where you can’t see a free.

“I think today you’d be scratching your head with some of the decisions the referee gave,” he added. “It’s just very frustrating that we seem to be the team that doesn’t get the decisions in this series, and the local (media) here who are at the games, I’d say they feel the same.”

Dolan spoke to the referee at half-time about the Wallace incident. “There was no issue; I just wanted clarification,” he stressed.

Asked about the explanation received, Dolan replied: “I wouldn’t say it was convincing, his answer to me – let’s put it like that. He didn’t seem to know himself.”

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