Menlough 1-12 Claregalway 2-8
In its own more modest way, a similar pattern of play to the All-Ireland Hurling Final, with Menlough always looking to be the stronger side without ever delivering the knock-out blow, and in the end, Claregalway came tantalisingly close to pulling off a most audacious comeback.
It all added up to quite a thrilling intermediate county football final spectacle, in front of close on 3,000 spectators at Pearse Stadium on Sunday with Menlough giving a great exhibition of simple, quick and direct football for the first 45 minutes, before Claregalway eventually roused themselves and came within a whisker of snatching a draw.
The Menlough central diamond of Tomás Mannion, Robert Hughes, David Reilly and Kevin Reilly tore into the early exchanges with a venom that Claregalway just couldn’t match – in terms of sharpness, pace and fielding power, there was only one team in it during the first half.
As the saying goes though, goals are ‘quare animals’, and although Menlough won the first half by eight scores to three, they trotted in at the interval just three points ahead on a 1-7 to 2-1 scoreline – despite all their first half subservience, Claregalway were only a goal behind.
Claregalway did manage to score their first point from play via the boot of Danny Cummins 11 minutes into the second half, but before that, Joey Glynn, Derwin Costello and Rob Hughes had hit the target for Menlough.
The next score was one of those special moments in Gaelic football. Menlough were awarded a sideline ball under the stand and captain Robert Hughes executed the sweetest of strikes to steer the ball into the breeze and over Brian O’Donoghue’s crossbar – it was every bit as good a strike as Maurice Fitzgerald’s famous score against Dublin at Semple Stadium in 2001.
By then, with Menlough leading by 1-11 to 2-2 as the game strayed well into the final quarter, it seemed to be only a matter of making the bonfire phone calls back home, but Claregalway – after a long hibernation – were about to wake up.
The origins of the comeback were humble enough with a Conor Glynn point from play, and an Eoghan Commins free, bringing it back to 1-11 to 2-4 with seven minutes left on the clock.
Claregalway now had the scent of a draw in their nostrils and by the time referee Ó Fatharta sounded the final whistle after playing two minutes of injury time, Menlough were desperately defending their own posts but they held out for a deserved victory.
A day of unadulterated joy for the parish of Menlough and Skehana and when Robert Hughes rose the cup in the centre of the Pearse Stadium stand, on the most mellow of autumnal evenings in front of an on-pitch crowd of close on 2,000, another GAA dream had come true. Menlough had replicated their win of 2006 and were more senior again . . . as a bonus, they achieved that goal with a fair complement of style as well.
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.