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Big shock as Galway U-21s are tumbled in semi-final

Dara Bradley

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Leitrim 0-9

Galway 0-8

WELL this didn’t go to script, now did it? Galway, the reigning All-Ireland champions, were dumped out of the U21 Connacht title race after being stunned by a hungrier Leitrim outfit at Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday.

Let’s face it, any day you lose to Leitrim is a bad day. Galway have now lost twice to Leitrim this year, including the senior’s loss in the FBD League – a worrying habit to be getting in to.

But in fairness to the minnows of Connacht football, Leitrim deserved this victory and nobody in Galway would begrudge them it.

As shocks go, this was seismic. Leitrim were overwhelming underdogs priced at a whopping 9/1 to win the game and they were quoted plus 13 points in the handicap betting with the bookies.

It seemed initially that Leitrim were not too interested in winning; that they were only on a containment mission to keep the losing margin down. They then realised Galway really weren’t up to much and grew in confidence as the game progressed. Hunger is a great sauce and Leitrim in the second-half certainly wanted it more than Galway.

Even when substitute Damien Comer bailed Galway out with a late equaliser with two minutes to go to leave it 0-8 apiece, it was Leitrim who always looked more likely to snatch a dramatic winner.

They sensed blood after half-time and went for the jugular; fittingly the best player on show, corner forward Niall Brady landed the winner seconds after Galway had drawn level.

Though they had chances, Galway couldn’t find space to engineer a point that would force extra-time as Leitrim defended as if their lives depended on it.

The sight of substitute Adrian Nolan having his attempted shot at the posts blocked down by a Leitrim defender, as he was surrounded by five or six yellow jerseys, summed up the honesty and hard-working tenacity of the home team.

The celebrations and pitch invasion afterwards reflected what Leitrim’s first win in this competition since 1998 means to the home county.

Leitrim were certainly up for it. In the local press earlier in the week, manager Shane Ward warned of their potential to cause an upset; and Leitrim were out warming up at a side pitch a good 15 minutes before Galway’s bus had even arrived at Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada. They meant business.

Galway, with the aid of a breeze, started brightest, with Cathal Mulryan, Seán Moran and Michael Day showing well early on, and carved out a 0-5 to 0-1 lead midway through the half, with Mulryan, Moran, lively wing-back Fiontán Ó Cuanaigh and Gary Kelly doing the scoring against one point from Leitrim’s Alan McLoughlin.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Corofin hit the goal trail again in crushing Monivea/Abbey

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COROFIN 4-18
MONIVEA/ABBEY 0-7

WHILE it goes without saying that everyone is hugely thankful that sporting action has resumed and we still appear on course to complete a season, it is such a pity for the time being that only a handful of supporters are allowed the privilege to watch a team of Corofin’s class in full flight as they look destined to create history on their march to an eighth senior title in a row.
On a glorious day for football last Sunday, Corofin dismantled Monivea/Abbey in emphatic fashion, playing an electric brand of football that repeatedly cut holes in their opponent’s defensive alignment. Seven goals last time out against Oughterard, there could have been more again in Tuam Stadium but for some uncharacteristically sloppy finishing to rapier-like first half moves that left Brian Mulry’s side exposed.
It didn’t help that Cillian McDaid, Monivea/Abbey’s star turn, was an absentee, or that St. Bernard’s Connacht Junior Cup quarter final was scheduled for the same time, but Monivea/Abbey should still take a small shred of comfort from the fact that they competed well at times, created 19 scoring chances, and never dropped their heads despite the lost cause.
With no Connacht or All-Ireland club championship to have to try and peak for later in the year, Corofin look poised to lay down a serious marker on how far ahead of the pack they really are. New faces like Matthew Cooley and replacement Colin Kelly, who confidently netted two second-half goals on his debut, are being given their chance, while Ronan Steede, Martin Farragher, Bernard Power, and Daithí Burke were not required on this occasion.
Throw in the fact that Kevin O’Brien chose to keep Kieran Molloy and Gary Sice in reserve until deep into the second half and you start to seriously question whether any side in the county will be able to lay a glove on them this term. Ian Burke is motoring along nicely, Micheál Lundy appears revived back in a more attacking role, while veterans like Ciarán McGrath are haring around the pitch as if they have a point to prove.
Monivea/Abbey were lively all over the pitch early on and actually created one more scoring opportunity in the opening twelve minutes (5-4) but were unfortunately wasteful when it mattered and somehow found themselves trailing by 1-2 to 0-1.
Corofin’s movement and accuracy were already sublime, with Lundy, Burke, and Cooley lining up in an I formation down the middle of the attack and Darragh Silke offering himself as a highly effective link man in transition. Jason Leonard and Dylan Canney provided width when needed while the defensive Dylan’s, Wall and McHugh, tore forward when the chances arose.
Ian Burke’s sharp turn on eight minutes left Caelom Mulry in his wake, but when a goal looked likely Burke drove just over the bar. Three minutes later the dam broke when Lundy curled a pass into Cooley in space, and he picked out McHugh on the burst who slotted to the net at his ease.
A Brian Moran free registered Monivea/Abbey’s first score shortly after, but the die had already been cast. Jason Leonard drove over a ’45 after Burke had been denied by some last gasp defending before Canney clipped over a classy score where Lundy and Burke were involved again.

Extended report will appear in this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway minor footballers stun Kerry in brilliant win

John McIntyre

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NOT many minor teams would have coped with the adversity and setbacks which stalked Galway’s championship summer, or much less end up looking forward to an All-Ireland final appearance in over a fortnight’s time.

Donal Ó Fatharta’s latest batch of minor footballers have had their mettle well and truly tested over the past couple of months, notably when falling twice in the provincial title race and also having to overcome a numerical disadvantage in a key match against a quality Sligo outfit.

The fact that Galway came through all those difficulties to contest last Sunday’s absorbing All-Ireland semi-final was a tribute to the squad’s character and resolve. Quite simply, this is a group of players wearing maroon jerseys who don’t know when to give up.

Having comfortably dispensed with Leinster champions Kildare in the All-Ireland quarter-final – Galway teams at all levels seem to have the Indian sign over the Lilywhites – they had clearly parked a heartbreaking extra-time loss to Mayo in the Connacht decider. It meant they headed to GAA headquarters in good fettle and no doubts about their bottle.

In the opposition corner, however, was a Kerry team trying to maintain the county’s push for an unprecedented sixth consecutive All-Ireland minor title. The Kingdom were also unbeaten in 34 matches at this level and were strong favourites to carry the day.

But the Galway players were both undaunted and ready for the challenge. They rose to the occasion in magnificent style and, pretty soon, it was evident that this was going to be no walk in the park for the highly-rated Kerry boys.

Galway thrived in the open spaces of Croke Park in producing their most accomplished display of the campaign.

Read full match coverage in Tribune Sport.

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Connacht Tribune

Corofin resume quest for seven-in-a-row

John McIntyre

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DUBLIN’S footballers may be going for the five-in-a-row, but Jim Gavin’s all-conquering charges would struggle to hold a candle to the team which continues to dominate Galway club football.

Corofin have had the odd close shave – notably last year’s drawn county final against Mountbellew/Moylough – but their shadow continues to tower over the Galway championship.

Kevin O’Brien’s troops are on the trail of a seventh county title on the trot in 2019 – a feat which would equal the achievements of St Grellan’s, Ballinasloe (1913 to ‘19) and Tuam Stars (1954 to ’60).

Corofin will also be aiming to stay on track for a record-breaking third consecutive All-Ireland title when resuming their championship campaign with a clash against Annaghdown at Tuam Stadium on Friday evening (7.30pm).

There are nine senior group ties down for this decision this weekend – two go ahead on Friday evening, with the rest taking place on Saturday, scheduling influenced by the Galway minors’ All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday.

See full match previews in this week’s Connacht Tribune Sport.

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