Dara Bradley at Dr Hyde Park
GALWAY outscored Roscommon six points to three in extra-time to win the Connacht U21 football final at Hyde Park on Saturday evening, scooping the county’s 17th JJ Fahy Cup in the process.
But the most intriguing narrative of this exciting encounter – and where it was lost and won – related to a bizarre rollercoaster finale that preceded the additional 20 minutes.
There was a stage deep into the second half of normal time when the penny finally dropped for Galway: All of a sudden, they realised Roscommon hadn’t the gumption to seal the deal.
Roscommon, three points to the good, were in complete control of the football having dominated the possession stakes for a large chunk of the second half. They held a knife to Galway’s throat at various points after half-time but never slit it; and, ultimately, Roscommon only managed to slay themselves.
The home outfit, who looked so dangerous in the first half, kicked five wides in succession in the fourth quarter, each one draining belief from their bones. Had one of them been converted, to make it a four-point ball game, one suspects Galway could have capitulated, the floodgates opened.
Roscommon bottled it, though, and were lacking conviction, lacking precision, when it mattered. And the more Roscommon looked like they were afraid to win it, and jittery about hammering the nail into the Galway coffin, the more Galway grew in confidence.
During that period of dominance, Roscommon could have fallen into a barrel of lollipops and they’d all come out sucking their toes. A combination of incompetence, ill-fortune and a stellar Galway defensive effort conspired against the Rossies, who kicked away the opportunity of retaining their provincial crown.
In contrast, Galway got three chances in the space of three minutes at the death and they landed all three. Bang, bang, bang, no messing, draw game. They taught Roscommon a lesson in accuracy, and being economical.
Galway manager Alan Flynn, and his selectors Declan Meehan and Paul Clancy, waited through 20 minutes or more of mediocrity before his charges turned on the style to sneak the leveller.
Corner forward Shane Walsh, who wasn’t having it all his own way up to that point, showed nerves of steel to, in quick succession, nail two pressure frees, and the equaliser from play, after being set-up by man-of-the-match, in the other corner, Ian Burke. As outlandish as it may have seemed minutes earlier, but when Walsh leveled things, 1-11 to 2-8, it was Roscommon who were desperate for a draw – Galway had all the momentum and could have nicked it.
In extra-time Roscommon looked shell-shocked not to have won it in normal time and Galway continued where they’d left off with the superb Ian Burke scoring a trio of points and Shane Maughan, Gary Kelly and Shane Walsh (free) all notching scores for Galway to win it by three.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.
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.