IT was the siege of Ennis early on. For the first nine minutes of this pulsating All-Ireland U21 semi-final at Cusack Park on Saturday, Galway could do no wrong.
The blockade of the Kerry goalposts began instantly, as the Tribesmen burst out of the blocks and bagged a goal with just 20 seconds gone on the clock.
Everything the forwards touched turned to gold during that brilliant blitzkrieg when they accumulated a scarcely believable 1-7 to 0-1 lead with less than a sixth of the hour played. It was breathtaking stuff from Gerry Fahy’s charges.
Their 100% strike rate didn’t continue – how could it? – but the bombardment from the get-go laid the foundation for this shock victory.
We say shock, because Kerry, packed with 14 All-Ireland minor medal winners, were overwhelming favourites to advance to the decider.
Let’s not take anything away from Galway, they deserve every pat on the back, but clearly the weight of expectation didn’t sit well on the shoulders of Jack O’Connor’s men.
“Everybody’s talking up this team but you still have to go out and perform,” the Kerry manager was quoted as saying in the matchday programme.
Apart from wing-forward Matthew Flaherty, who took the game to Galway in the second-half, goalkeeper Shane Ryan, and a handful of substitutes, the Munster champions couldn’t be accused of performing. Anyone who hadn’t seen Kerry play but had heard and read about this highly-rated team would have been bitterly disappointed: The Kingdom were pretty dismal.
Galway, by contrast, were awesome. Any day you score 2-14 against Kerry is a good day. Better still, 2-11 came from play, and ten Galway players got on the scoresheet, underlining the trend that was very evident in their march to provincial success: Galway aren’t over-reliant on any one individual and have scoring threats all over the park.
The much-praised forwards certainly lived-up to their reputations but it was the towering midfield duo, of Peter Cooke and Céin D’Arcy, who played out of their skins, and the hugely impressive defensive unit, which deserve most plaudits.
Galway leaked 5-36 in the three championship matches of the Connacht campaign and so there was an obvious pre-match concern that Kerry might go to town on them. Not a chance.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune.