The Galway senior footballers are ‘back in the big time’ where they belong – in an All-Ireland quarter-final at Croke Park.
Galway reached the last eight after Saturday’s five-points qualifiers win over Tipperary in Tullamore – they will grace GAA headquarters for the first time in six years this Sunday (2pm).
As in 2008, Galway face the aristocrats of Gaelic football, Kerry, the second favourites after Dublin to win the Sam Maguire Cup this season.
The Kingdom are overwhelming favourites (2/7 versus 10/3) to reign supreme and advance to the semi-finals.
But Alan Mulholland’s young outfit showed enough of an attacking threat against the Premier County to suggest Galway will be no pushovers.
Reaching the quarter-finals was the target all year and now they’re in ‘bonus country’ . . . with the shackles off, and in the wide open spaces of Croke Park, who knows what Galway could achieve?
Certainly, the Galway forwards possess a lethal combination of class and speed, which badly exposed Tipperary’s defence last Saturday.
They racked-up 4-17, which is a serious score, with all five of those who played in attack – Shane Walsh, Paul Conroy, Michael Lundy, Michael Martin and Danny Cummins – proving their worth.
Galway showed they’re a confidence team: They struggled to settle at O’Connor Park and were a bit edgy but once midfielder Fiontán Ó Curraoin bagged the first of four goals in seven minutes, confidence levels soared, and the Tribesmen always appeared likely winners.
By the same token, Galway’s defensive unit leaked four goals in the second-half, which is quite worrying, even if the game was effectively over at that stage.
Though they stumbled over Clare, Kerry destroyed Cork in the Munster final. It finished 24 points to 12 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh with corner-forward James O’Donoghue from Killarney in devastating form raising 10 white flags.
Kerry have quality all over the park. Donnchadh Walsh, Bryan Sheehan and Declan O’Sullivan are top forwards; Anthony Maher and Johnny Buckley are a sturdy centre-field pairing; while experienced guys like Marc Ó Sé, Killian Young and Aidan O’Mahony are the bricks around which Kerry’s defensive wall is built.
This fixture six summers ago was remembered for the monsoon-type conditions and for the openness and quality of the attacking flair on show. Caltra’s Micahel Meehan scored 10 points but Kerry emerged on top, 1-21 to 1-16.
Only three Galway players survive from that campaign – Paul Conroy, Finian Hanley, and Gareth Bradshaw. Conroy was just 18, in his first season at senior, and this week recalled how being marked by the Kerry captain Tomás Ó Sé that day was a “wake up call”.
The St James clubman admits it’s difficult to reconcile that Galway has been out in the cold since.
“Yeah, it is hard to believe it’s been six years since we’ve been in Croke Park. It’s too long to be honest with you for a footballing county like Galway with the tradition and culture. It’s hard to believe it was 2008 but that’s the reality. That was my first year, and leaving Croke Park you’d be thinking it would be the same every year but unfortunately that’s not the way it has worked out,” he said.
For more and a full match preview see this week’s Connacht & City Tribunes
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.
Nightmare start spells the end for Galway U20’s
GALWAY’S dream of U20 All-Ireland glory was extinguished before it had an opportunity to catch fire in Longford on Saturday, as a physically imposing Dublin hit the Tribesmen for 2-1 in the opening six minutes of this All-Ireland semi-final to quench any hope of a victory for Padraic Joyce’s outfit.
To their credit, Galway did recover from this early setback and 11 minutes into the second half they had levelled up the game at 1-9 to 2-6. The momentum appeared to be with them.
However, so much energy and effort were expended in reeling the Dubs back in that when it came to furthering their challenge down the home straight, they had nothing left in the tank as the Dubs ran out 2-14 to 1-10 winners.
As keen as Dublin started the game, they finished the contest even stronger, outscoring Galway by eight points to one in the closing 20 minutes of action. The Connacht champions simply had no answer to the power, pace and brawn of an impressive Dublin side.
Had Galway not fallen victim to the start they had, could they have won this? That is difficult to say. Certainly, Joyce and his management team will take many learnings away from this, particularly in terms of their kickouts and the turnovers they needlessly coughed up.
Around the middle of the park, Galway, despite the best efforts of midfielder Matthias Barrett, were overpowered by three Dublin giants, namely midfielders Peadar Ó Cofaigh Byrne and Donal Ryan and centre-half forward Karl Lynch Bissett.
In addition to securing the majority of Dublin’s own kickouts, they also plundered a plethora of Galway’s; while the Dubs’ physicality in open play also caused a beleaguered Galway team a great deal of trouble for. Forced into numerous turnovers when distributing due to the pressure they came under, Galway were also stripped of possession in the tackle on too many occasions.
See full report and reaction in Connacht Tribune Sport.