IT’S probably the pairing last Spring that most knowledgeable pundits of the game would have selected for a county final joust . . . Salthill-Knocknacarra, the reigning champions, and Corofin, always the most likely suspects to plunder the Frank Fox cup from its resting place west of the Corrib.
Salthill-Knocknacarra’s path to a second county final appearance in a row at Tuam Stadium on Sunday (4.0) has been a measure more artisan than Corofin’s progression – the North Galway side have clocked up some big scores right from the start of their campaign last May against Micheál Breathnach.
A preliminary round defeat for Salthill at the hands of Carna-Cashel was a humbling enough experience for the county champions but they took that setback in their stride and got back on track for a retention of their crown with a five point win over Micheál Breathnach.
Solidity rather than flash has been the hallmark of the Salthill-Knocknacarra campaign so far with tight wins over Tuam Stars, Caltra and St. James’, but through all those matches they have shown a steely resolve when the pressure came on near the end.
Corofin’s roadway to the final has been far more spectacular. So far in their championship progression, they have scored 3-17 against Ml. Breathnach, 0-17 in their win over NUIG, a whopping 6-18 in the defeat of Naomh Éanna/Leitir Mór and 1-12 in the semi-final victory over Milltown.
One of Corofin’s big concerns in the run-up to this final will be the ‘small talk’ around the county about them being a good bet not only to take the Galway title but to go on to bigger stuff such as the Connacht and All-Ireland crowns. That is not the kind of thought that manager David Morris will want to infiltrate into the mind-set of his players.
“We have just one match on our minds and that’s next Sunday. Salthill-Knocknacarra are a proven team with a lot of experience, a side that over recent years have gone all the way to win an All-Ireland title.
“I think that they are a very physically strong team that will give little away in defence. I don’t think that we are a match for them physically so we’ll need to play a fast moving game.
“One of the things about Salthill this year is that they have come through a lot of tight games and that’s always a big help on final day. This is our biggest challenge of the year,” said Morris.
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.