Inside Track with John McIntyre
GREAT Galway club teams of the past, Sarsfields, Kiltormer, Athenry and Portumna, couldn’t manage it – winning the All-Ireland title at the first time of asking – and that statistic alone sums up the magnitude of the task facing championship debutants Liam Mellows in 2018.
Furthermore, the city outfit do not – at least, yet – have the reputation of any of those Galway peers as being an exceptional club team. In fact, Mellows were surprise winners of the county championship last November after a 46-year title famine when their three-goal haul proved too much for a Gort side suffering their second final defeat in succession.
Sure, Mellows will draw some inspiration from St Thomas’ bucking the trend of first-time Galway champions failing to win the All-Ireland title, but that is more than negated by the quality of opposition in Saturday’s semi-final at Semple Stadium. Cuala are the reigning champions and though they had some sticky moments in defending their Dublin title last Autumn, Mattie Kenny’s charges certainly rediscovered their verve in the subsequent Leinster campaign.
They are raging hot favourites to fend off Mellow’ challenge and when you look at the inter-county experience in their ranks, notably in the Schutte brothers, Oisin Gough, Darragh O’Connell, Colm Cronin and David Treacy, it’s easy to see why they have broken new ground for a Dublin team. And then, of course, there is the brilliance of dual player, Con O’Callaghan, an All-Ireland medal winner with the county footballers last year.
Ahead of their contest with Mellows, Cuala also benefit from having a Galwayman at the helm. Kenny will know a fair bit about Saturday’s opposition, reducing the prospect of his team being caught napping or failing to properly access the strengths and weaknesses of their rivals. The defending champions made short work of Kilcormac/Killoughey in the Leinster final and, on all known form, look different class to the new Galway holders.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.