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
Champions Moycullen on guard after club football draw
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
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.