RARELY if ever in the speckled history of Galway football has the county faced up to a championship game with such a light load of expectation as they do on Saturday evening at Pearse Stadium (5pm) in the third round of the qualifiers when they take on an Armagh side, also stuck with an under-achieving tag over recent years.
Strange things can happen in football and Galway manager Alan Mulholland will be desperately hoping that from somewhere his charges can retrieve a sense of confidence and purpose that has eluded them so far this year.
Galway have won two qualifying games, albeit against Tipperary and Waterford, but they struggled for long periods of both games against Division 4 opposition – not results to swell the confidence barrel – but still victories, and in bad times two successes are welcome in their own way.
By contrast, Armagh really lost the run of themselves in their wins over Division 4 opponents, Wicklow (2-21 to 0-2) and Leitrim (8-13 to 0-10) – they come to the holiday resort this weekend with a real pep in their step following their initial very disappointing Ulster championship exit at the hands of Cavan.
Mayo’s 17 point demolition of Galway in the Connacht semi-final at Pearse Stadium last May left no one in any doubt about the respective positions of those counties – one definite contenders for Sam Maguire and the other desperately trying to show that the foundations are being laid in the rebuilding process.
In fairness to Galway, the squad has put in a huge effort on the training ground since the darkest days of mid-winter but it just hasn’t translated into any tangible return on the field of play. Is it that Galway just don’t have the players to hack it with the big boys, or should we be just that little bit better.
Confidence is a mercurial commodity and Galway have been finding it in short supply over recent months – it only builds up through a run of wins, but all year, Galway have struggled to put together back-to-back victories.
Modest and all as the Galway wins were over Tipp and Waterford, they will have helped to lift the spirits, and at least they came out on top in tight games, something they had struggled to do over recent years.
The return of Finian Hanley to the full back position for the qualifiers has restored a measure of composure to the centre of defence, while Gary O’Donnell has also settled in solidly to the centre back role.
Other little nuggets of hope come from the powerful midfield displays of Paul Conroy; the return to scoring form of Michael Meehan and the liveliness of Danny Cummins in the corner. Galway though are struggling in many other positions.
They will be hoping that Conroy’s recent run of good form will give them a better midfield break than they enjoyed in last April’s league match against Armagh in the Athletic Grounds, when the home side caught ball after ball between the two 45s, often unopposed.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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.
Galway minor footballers stun Kerry in brilliant win
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.
Corofin resume quest for seven-in-a-row
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.