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Footballers turn the corner

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Galway  1-11  Armagh 0-9

TWO months of soul-searching, two months of despair, finally gave away to a wondrous awakening as the new generation of Galway footballers produced the shock of Round Three of the All-Ireland senior football qualifiers to put Armagh to the sword in the splendid sunshine at Salthill on Saturday evening.

A team which had been humbled and humiliated by old foes Mayo, before labouring to get past Tipperary and Waterford at the same venue, finally came of age with the kind of performance their supporters could only have dreamed of through those three troubling fixtures.

There has been a good deal of luck about the Tribesmen’s run through the qualifiers, and there was an element of good fortune about Danny Cummins’ decisive 24th minute goal, but nobody in the attendance of 5,628 could dispute that the better, more focused team won this battle.

The Tribesmen made four changes for this fixture, and were forced into a fifth when corner back Keith Kelly picked up an injury in the warm-up, and there was a clear sense of purpose about the men in maroon from the minute they took to the field.

They stormed into an early three point lead and never once fell behind to an Armagh side which had perhaps fallen into a false sense of security after dishing out hammerings to Leitrim and Wicklow, in which they had scored an incredible 10-34, in their previous two games.

Huge credit must go to the Galway defence for limiting the much-vaunted visiting attack to just nine points here – the Armagh men were constantly harried and closed down, and never once got a chance to launch a serious assault on Manus Breathnach’s goal.

It was a tactical masterclass by Alan Mulholland and his selectors, who deployed Johnny Duane in a sweeper role in front of rival danger man Jamie Clarke. Once Duane and direct opponent Donal O’Neill snuffed Clarke’s threat out, the Armagh attack looked far less menacing.

Forwards Conor Doherty and the recalled Micheal Martin put in unbelievable shifts in the sweltering conditions. Time and again, they tracked back to help their defensive colleagues while All-Ireland U-21 winner Thomas Flynn dominated the midfield exchanges alongside the superbly consistent Paul Conroy.

In short, firm defensive foundations were put in place right from the start for this memorable victory. It did not seem to matter that there were just three Galway players in the opposing half at times, given the wonderful mobility demonstrated by the men in maroon when shifting focus from defence to attack.

Armagh must have been shell-shocked to find themselves four points down at the break and, even though they did try to mount a fightback, Galway just upped the pace again to register the most impressive 70 minute performance of the Mulholland era.

All of the changes paid off in one way or another for the management team, while full credit must go to Sean Denvir for doing such a solid job after being called into the starting XV at literally the last minute.

Once again, the experience of Finian Hanley and Gary Sice was vital to the cause when Armagh tried to rally, but this was a day when some of Galway’s talented youngsters finally looked the part at senior level.

The Tribesmen made light of low expectations from the outset and Duane, on a rare venture upfield, opened their account with a fisted point after good work by Flynn, a rejuvenated Sean Armstrong at centre forward, and Conroy.

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

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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

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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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