Cian O’Connell at Pearse Stadium
SUDDENLY one of the great, but unheralded and almost untold stories of Galway football flared to prominence on Saturday evening as Carna-Caiseal claimed a fully deserved senior championship success over a subdued Salthill-Knocknacarra at Pearse Stadium.
While the collision of the 2012 Intermediate and Senior champions had intrigue attached, few would have predicted the ultimate outcome. Sean O Cualain’s Carna-Caiseal, though, had written their own script; in classic underdog fashion they rattled Salthill by being organised, methodical, and, with a flair for the dramatic, netting brilliantly timed goals in either half.
Salthill were flummoxed and miserably short on ideas. Sean Armstrong was immense, their only forward who posed a threat, but with support non existent up front, Carna-Caiseal deployed Seosamh Seoige in a sweeper’s role and he cleaned up, especially in the second half. Salthill, who had carved out chances early on, were only allowed create six worthwhile opportunities from play after the restart. That was because Carna-Caiseal played the match on their terms – stifling the favourites, who hadn’t the requisite subtlety to survive.
The past decade has been littered with courageous Carna-Caiseal performances, but Salthill-Knocknacarra didn’t seem to heed the warning signs. For sheer heart and honesty alone, Carna deserve credit and respect for marking their return to the highest level by upsetting the supposed standard bearers.
For the holders, it was a scary start to the campaign and while last year’s county title was achieved in a most unSalthill-like fashion, the old failings were familiar here. Without Ruaidhrí McTiernan and Finian Hanley, the backline was short on doggedness and stability as Armstrong was left to carry the fight single handedly. An injury to Seamie Crowe restricted him to a late cameo appearance, but by then Carna-Caiseal knew the upset was very much on.
Dominant at the outset with Armstrong kicking scores off his right and left foot from improbable angles, Salthill had offered flashes of their pedigree and potential. Still for all of Salthill’s brightness, they only led by 0-3 to 0-1 when Carna-Caiseal struck for a hugely controversial goal.
Everyone in the reasonable crowd watched in disbelief as referee PJ Rabbitte allowed play to go on following a quick Sean O Cuirrín free. The Salthill backline were caught out by the confusion and Seosamh O Cathasaigh took maximum advantage drilling a goal that not only boosted Carna-Caiseal’s account with three points, but it gave them a dollop of hope.
Indeed doubt had been put into Salthill minds and within seconds custodian Cormac Connolly had to go down low to smother an O Cuirrín attempt. Injected with optimism, Carna-Caiseal were able to absorb the blows that Armstrong continued to land at the other end.
Carna were bothered by Armstrong’s efficiency, but they still went in at the break on terms, 1-4 to 0-7. That encouraged them and Salthill became increasingly agitated despite two third quarter scores from Armstrong and Gary Cox.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Champions Moycullen on guard after club football draw
CHAMPIONS Moycullen will open the defence of their title against an emerging Claregalway outfit when the sides meet in the first round of the 2021 county senior football championship on the weekend of September 5th.
In addition to Claregalway, Moycullen have also been pooled with An Cheathrú Rua and Annaghdown and, while Don Connellan’s charges will be favourites heading into all three SFC fixtures, the former Roscommon footballer will be acutely aware that each of their Group 3 opponents have the capacity to spring a surprise.
Indeed, this proved to be Moycullen’s forte in 2020 as they claimed the Frank Fox Cup for the very first time. It was even more impressive given they did so without Galway star Peter Cooke, who was working in the United States last year. Cooke has since returned and his availability significantly boasts their chances of retaining their title.
From the outset in 2020, though, Moycullen looked like men on a mission. In their group games, they saw off Micheál Breathnach (3-12 to 1-6), Annaghdown (4-9 to 2-14) and Mountbellew/Moylough (4-14 to 1-9) before accounting for St. James’ (1-17 to 2-9) and 2019 finalists Tuam Stars (3-14 to 1-15) in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively.
The two biggest threats to Moycullen’s crown are Corofin – still the reigning All-Ireland club champions – and Mountbellew/Moylough while Tuam Stars and Salthill/Knocknacarra will also fancy their chances.
Corofin, unbeaten for almost eight years in Galway SFC football until their demise last year, have been drawn in Group 4A, alongside Oughterard and Salthill/Knocknacarra. However, those three teams will not play each other, but rather they cross-play the teams pooled in Group 4B, namely Monivea/Abbey, Barna and Caherlistrane.
This unusual format gives each of these teams three SFC fixtures – same as the four-team groups – with the top two sides in each of these sections – 4A and 4B – advancing to the knockout stages.
See full coverage of the draw in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway let 11-point slip in a thrilling minor battle
IT would be a tad simplistic to dub what was a hugely entertaining Connacht minor football semi-final as a game of two halves, given that Galway led by 11 points at one stage before Roscommon stormed back to eventually claim a remarkable victory at Tuam Stadium last Saturday.
The reality is a little more nuanced, in that Galway, on their first outing of the year, impressively carved Roscommon’s defence apart with an array of stylish attacking play for a 20-minute spell while playing with the wind at their backs. Outside of that period, though, Galway would just manage to register a solitary point from play.
Roscommon also let four decent goal chances slip through their fingers before they eventually did raise a green flag, drawing two saves while also hitting the post. Critically they hit the last three points of the half to leave a slightly more manageable eight between the sides.
During Galway’s purple patch, pacy corner forwards Eanna Monaghan and Niall Mannion both left their markers chasing shadows, as Galway reeled off nine scores without reply having understandably started quite sluggishly. Goals by Sean Bermingham and Monaghan looked to have Alan Flynn’s side in the box seat, but Roscommon showed remarkable character to claw their way back despite a second half black card that threatened to stall their comeback.
However, when Robert Heneghan’s thunderous 47th minute shot hit the roof of the net while Roscommon were still a body short, the large travelling support rose the decibel levels another notch and their team responded magnificently.
Read full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Corofin hit the goal trail again in crushing Monivea/Abbey
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.