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Title defence begins



THE Galway U21 footballers’ defence of their All-Ireland title starts on Saturday (4.30pm) with a tricky away assignment against Leitrim in the Connacht semi-final at Carrick-on-Shannon.

Galway defied the odds last year to claim the title, beating several favourites on the way, including Kildare in the semi-final and Cork in a pulsating final in Limerick in May; it was the county’s second U21 title in three years.

 As is always the case at underage grades, the talent moves on, and this season just seven from the panel that started in the All-Ireland final, and four substitutes that day, are available to the management at the beginning of the 2014 campaign.

 The likes of ‘keeper Thomas Healy, corner back David Cunnane, the entire half-back line of Mark Loughnane, Daithí Burke and Paul Varley, as well as full-forward Adrian Varley, are all over age this year.

 The biggest loss is the midfield pairing of Thomas Flynn and Fiontán Ó Curraoin, two talismanic leaders who have served the county so well together at centre-field for the past three years at this grade.

 Experienced full-back James Shaughnessy (Ballinasloe), who seems to have been around for quite some time, is still underage and is the obvious choice to take over the captaincy from Ó Curraoin.

 Defender Eoin Walsh (Moycullen), as well as five of the six forwards who started the final in 2013 – including Cathal Mulryan (Cortoon), Séan Moran (Claregalway), Damien Comer (Annaghdown), Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin/Clonberne) and Ian Burke (Corofin) – are all also available, and on paper, Galway certainly pack a potent punch up front.

 Galway could shoot the lights out if those forwards click but there are injury concerns over Walsh and Comer, who have been sidelined for the county’s senior squad, and a decision won’t be made on their inclusion until after training on Thursday night.

 How Galway fills the midfield void will be interesting. Michael Day from Headford is a big strong versatile footballer who has been showing well in training and could be in contention, while the likes of Comer, if fit, city man Shane Maughan, and possibly Enda Tierney (Oughterard) provide options.

 Manager Alan Flynn (Tuam Stars) is in charge once again this year but with two new trusty lieutenants, Terry O’Regan (St James’) and Noel Meehan (Caltra), and they’ve managed to assemble a squad of 33 with around 14 different clubs from around the county represented. 

 Among the newcomers drafted into the U21 set-up are Joe Donnellan (Cortoon), dual player Eamon Brannigan (St Michael’s), Kevin Nally (Caherlistrane) and Brian Shaughnessy, a brother of James. Rory Lavelle (Renvyle) and Darren McDonnell (Tuam Stars) are the two goalkeepers.

 Flynn said the character-building experience of winning an All-Ireland title will stand to the players who featured in last year’s campaign, and he hopes they will draw on that against Leitrim.

 For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

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.

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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.

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Connacht Tribune

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.

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