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Under 21 shoot-out

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The curtain is set to be drawn on the last of the major club football competitions on Saturday in Pearse Stadium (2.30pm), when Salthill-Knocknacarra and Corofin battle it out for the U-21 A title.

Despite the lateness in the year, a cracking contest looks to be in store between two sides that came through tough tests in their respective semi-finals.

Corofin overcame the very stern challenge of Claregalway in a pulsating North Board final at Tuam Stadium last month, with just two points to spare, on a 1-15 to 1-13 scoreline.

The passage of Salthill-Knocknacarra to the county final was even more hard-earned. They had to rely on a late, late equaliser to secure a West final replay against St Michael’s, before coming good in the replay.

That ‘extra match’, in which they triumphed on a 0-13 to 1-7 scoreline, should be a boost to their preparations and they will be hoping that full forward Sean Hughes, can continue his rich vein of scoring form, especially from placed balls.

Hughes pointed seven points in that victory over St Michael’s and by all accounts also made a huge contribution from open play to the overall attacking efforts of his side.

Salthill-Knocknacarra will also take plenty of solace from their strong finish to that match – an indication of very sharp fitness levels – but they will need to be on top of their game to trouble a speedy Corofin outfit.

Kevin Johnson’s side will be most anxious to erase any memories the club has of their senior county final demise at the hands of Corofin, but this is a contest to be decided on its own merits.

Three of the Corofin side – goalkeeper Tom Healy, midfielder Liam Silke and free scoring corner forward Ian Burke – were all starting members of the senior county final winning side and they will fancy their chances of bringing off the double.

However Corofin have been hard hit by long term injuries with manager Brian Silke reporting a ‘walking wounded’ list of seven players.

Cathal Reilly (cruciate), Conor Cunningham (cartilage), Daithi Burke (broken foot bone), Jason Leonard (collar bone), Óisín Mannion (broken ankle, but might tog) and Stephen Broderick (cruciate), make up a rather shocking injury list.

Even a club of Corofin’s formidable panel strength in all grades of football, have to struggle to fill those gaps, but the side did show plenty of character in their North final success over Claregalway.

“Those are big players to be missing on county final day but we’ve known that for some time and it was great to win the North Final against Claregalway. To be honest about it, anything after that is a real bonus, but we’re looking forward to this final and giving it our best shot,” said Brian Silke.

Like his Salthill-Knocknacarra counterpart, Brian Silke is not exactly impressed at the ‘dragging on’ of the U-21 championship from the start of the year to the end.

“It really is very disappointing that this competition couldn’t have been finished off earlier in the year. I see no reason why this couldn’t have happened but club senior league matches were prioritised ahead of the U-21 championship,” said Brian Silke.

 For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Champions Moycullen on guard after club football draw

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Moycullen's David Wynne tries to halt the progress of Mountbellew-Moylough's Paul Donnellan during last year's Galway senior football final at Pearse Stadium.

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

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Connacht Tribune

Galway let 11-point slip in a thrilling minor battle

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Galway’s Colm Costello tries to fend off the challenge of Roscommon’s Ethan O’Reilly during Friday's Connacht minor football semi-final at Tuam Stadium. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Roscommon 1-16

Galway          2-12

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

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Connacht Tribune

Corofin hit the goal trail again in crushing Monivea/Abbey

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COROFIN 4-18
MONIVEA/ABBEY 0-7

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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