THE Galway footballers’ heaviest defeat to Mayo in 106 years has ensured an unusually sombre mood in the county’s GAA strongholds which is unlikely to be lifted by the start of the Claregalway Hotel and Bon Secours senior football championship this weekend.
Normally a team with three or four players on the county panel would be expected to have a distinct advantage when the focus switches to the club scene, but now the spotlight will be on how the Galway players bounce back from a humiliating defeat to their greatest rivals.
Suddenly, the character, passion, tactical planning, and commitment levels of a proud footballing county are under question – all the doom and gloom is in stark contrast to just three weeks ago when the U-21 side brought All-Ireland glory to the maroon and white with a thrilling victory over Cork.
It’s now up to the county’s senior players to demonstrate that the game in Galway is not as bad as it was made to look, cruelly at times, by Mayo last Sunday and there seems to be a real restlessness among the clubs given that no less than 16 of the 21 senior sides have changed their management teams since last year’s campaign.
Corofin once again start the championship as firm favourites, and they begin their 2013 championship with what should be a routine assignment against Micheal Breathnach in the second part of a double bill at Pearse Stadium on Saturday evening.
The tie of the round is probably the ‘derby’ between Cortoon Shamrocks and the local Stars at Tuam Stadium on Sunday evening, the first part of a double header at the North Galway venue. Salthill-Knocknacarra will begin the defence of their title against Intermediate champions Carna-Caiseal at Pearse Stadium.
It will be a poignant occasion for the Connemara men as it’s their first championship tie since the death of corner back Daniel O Conaire (23), who died suddenly of a suspected heart attack in his sleep last month.
Daniel was a key man in the side who won the intermediate title last year, and took part in all the celebrations when they restored senior status after a seven year absence. Perhaps his tragic passing should put Galway football’s current woes in their proper perspective ahead of the ten games which take place at four separate venues on Saturday and Sunday.
St James’ v Caltra
(Tuam Stadium, 3.45pm)
City man Frank Doherty’s reward for taking charge of his native club is an opening round showdown with the side he helped guide to the 2004 All-Ireland title. He contested two county finals as Caltra manager and describes his three and a half years with the club as “the best times ever” with a “great bunch of lads”. St James’ and Galway goalkeeper John Egan is out for the year, while his side will hope that county panellists Paul Conroy, Johnny Duane, and Eoin Concannon can put last Sunday’s nightmare behind them.
The city side will be favourites to overcome Caltra, who also have a new manager in Cyril Ryan (Mountbellew-Moylough). Michael and Declan Meehan are the undoubted leaders on a side who were knocked out of the championship by St James’, on a 1-10 to 0-8 scoreline, in the third round last year. Their chances of getting one over their former boss are hampered by injuries to dual players Cathal and Padraig Mannion, Shane Hogan (leg), Rob Kelly (shoulder), and Matthew Killilea (knee).
Verdict: St James’.
Match odds: St James’ 8/13, draw 7/1, Caltra 3/2
Milltown v Caherlistrane
(Tuam Stadium, 5.30pm)
A 32-year wait for the Frank Fox Cup has been a huge source of frustration for Milltown, who seem to get to the business end of the championship almost every year and actually reached the final in 2007, losing by two points to Killererin. Staunch clubman John Concannon is back at the helm for a side who have no injury worries going into this tie. The arrival of double All-Star nominee James Kavanagh, on a transfer from Kildare, is a huge boost to an attack which already boasts two county panellists, Mark Hehir and Micheal Martin.
Larry Bane is back in charge of Caherlistrane, having guided them to the All-Ireland Intermediate final back in 2005, and they are seeking to avenge their 0-9 to 0-5 defeat to Milltown in the third round last year. Cormac Bane (hamstring) has not trained for two weeks, while Brendan Murphy is back after three years in Australia. The manager reports that there are seven Caherlistrane seniors aged under 29 currently living overseas.
Match odds: Milltown 2/5, draw 7/1, Caherlistrane 7/4
Salthill-Knocknacarra v Carna-Caiseal
(Pearse Stadium, 5.45pm)
Salthill begin the defence of their crown against a Carna-Caiseal side who won the Intermediate title in some style last year. Former goalkeeper Cathal McGinley has taken charge of the seasiders, who are planning for this tie without Galway captain Finian Hanley (shoulder) and veteran dual star Alan Kerins (work commitments). Sean Armstrong will be hoping to make up for last Sunday’s disaster at the same venue.
There is a tragic background to this tie as Daniel O Conaire’s Month’s Mind takes on the night before the game. Understandably, training has been tough over the past four weeks for Sean O Cualain’s side, who worked hard to get back to the top flight last year. The likes of Donal O Dubhda, Colm Mac An Ri, and Stiofan O Curraoin will be determined to give a good account of themselves.
Match odds: Salthill-Knocknacarra 1/8, draw 10/1, Carna-Caiseal 5/1
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Galway let 11-point slip in a thrilling minor battle
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
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.