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Lack of firepower leaves the Green & Red with Blues

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As the clock struck five bells last Sunday evening it was the longest, saddest and most silent of strolls down the North Circular Road.

Thousands and thousands of Mayo supporters just stared at the ground and walked swiftly straight ahead. There were no expletives, no chastising of the referee and no bemoaning of the missed chances . . . it was just a stoic silence. In the end, so near and yet so far.

Just four or five hours previously outside Quinn’s Bar in Drumcondra, the mood could not have been any more different. There were Mayo people everywhere, many of them didn’t have tickets, and there wasn’t a whisper of ‘a spare one’ anywhere – not even from the touts.

But these fans were mostly young, happy and loaded with expectation. A pass machine in a nearby shop had a queue of over 30 people by midday, all of them clad in the red and green. So what if they didn’t have tickets – if Mayo won the Sam, they would be there for one of the great occasions of Irish sport.

By one o clock, 15 minutes before the start of the minor match, Mayo supporters had occupied most of the prime positions on ‘The Hill’. By hook or by crook they had secured half – and probably a few more – of the 12,753 terrace tickets.

The Mayo minors responded in style to their early bird supporters delivering a 2-13 to 1-13 victory over Tyrone, their first All-Ireland success since 1985. By the time their inspirational captain, Stephen Coen, picked up the Tom Markham Cup shortly after 2.30pm, the Jones’s Road venue was rocking.

Thousands of Dubs had now infiltrated ‘The Hill’ and also many of the seats in the towering horseshoe stands. The blue bodhrans started to boom from ‘The Hill’, packing a real sound punch that resonated around the ground. Minor matters had been left aside, now we were facing up to the real business of the day.

This contest mightn’t have matched the flow of the Kerry/Dublin All-Ireland semi-final, but the pace and intensity of the first 20 minutes was breathtaking. Often, from the lofty perch of the press box in the upper Hogan Stand, one misses out on the cut and thrust of the action, but from 12 rows back in the Lower Cusack, you can hear the crunch of the tackle, bone against bone, temple against temple. This was no country for old men and no arena for posers.

Mayo did everything right in that opening half hour . . . well almost. They tackled with a manic intensity and played the game at a tempo that the Dubs struggled to keep up with, but they needed scores on the board – lots of them, to carry them through the second half – but alas they only arrived via the drip-feed channel. Dublin heads were reeling, but they hadn’t been knocked to the canvas.

Hawk-Eye just about ruled out an early Keith Higgins effort; Cillian O’Connor kicked a couple of frees wide; ‘keeper Robbie Hennelly also missed a long range placed ball effort, and occasionally there was the sniff of a Mayo goal, but it never came.

Then out of the blue, Dublin delivered a wicked kidney punch. A long ball from Diarmuid Connolly into the Mayo square should have been contested just by Ger Cafferkey and Bernard Brogan, but Hennelly – in his only rush of blood – joined in to make it a gang of three. Brogan’s flick was deft without being viciously fast, but there was no one ‘at home’ to pick it up, and out of nowhere the Dubs were back in business.

In fairness to the Breaffy ’keeper, apart from that slip-up, his heroics kept Mayo in the game with three absolutely magnificent saves. The Mayo backs, though, will be disappointed that from two of them, the Dubs still picked off points from the rebounds. 

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Champions Moycullen on guard after club football draw

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Moycullen's David Wynne tries to halt the progress of Mountbellew-Moylough's Paul Donnellan during last year's Galway senior football final at Pearse Stadium.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Galway let 11-point slip in a thrilling minor battle

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Galway’s Colm Costello tries to fend off the challenge of Roscommon’s Ethan O’Reilly during Friday's Connacht minor football semi-final at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Roscommon 1-16

Galway          2-12

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

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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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