MOST football people will remember the last time a Kildare team were raging hot favourites heading into an important inter-county championship clash with Galway.
No need to gloat . . . but the bookmakers were wrong, the Lilywhites wilted, and Galway bridged a 32-year gap to win the 1998 All-Ireland senior football final.
In 2000, the last time the two counties crossed swords in championship action, it was at the penultimate stage of the senior All-Ireland series. The bookies’ forecast was reversed, Galway were favourites, but the result was the same, Galway won the semi-final.
Obviously those results, on the surface, matter little this weekend when Galway’s young guns face Kildare in the All-Ireland U21 semi-final joust on Saturday (2pm) in Tullamore; after all, both set of players were still only in primary school back then.
It may matter less that the last time these two sides met in the All-Ireland semi-final of an U21 championship – way back in 1992 – Galway defeated what was then touted as one of the best ever U21 sides to emerge from Kildare, a side that had beaten a fancied Dublin outfit in the Leinster final.
Who cares, you say? So what?
Those three results matter little if you discount tradition . . . but tradition matters in football. Tradition matters to Kildare, who will be hell-bent breaking it, breaking with the tradition of losing to Galway in important championship games. And tradition matters to Galway, too. Because of that winning tradition against Kildare, there’s no reason why Galway should fear them this weekend.
Galway may well be underdogs, rightly so; Galway may have a healthy respect for them, they’d be stupid not to. But they won’t fear them because tradition tells us they shouldn’t fear them. Captain Fintán Ó Curraoin said as much after the Connacht final.
“That’s the attitude you want from lads, and that’s the attitude we have,” said manager Alan Flynn. “If we go down there and stand looking at them or are in awe of them then we might as well stay in Galway. The lads will go out there and have a cut at them and rattle them and see what that brings us . . . we know if we improve on the last day and play to our ability, then we have skilful lads and we’ll be in with a shout.”
Kildare’s one and only All-Ireland title at this grade was won in 1965 but it’s easy to see why the county is abuzz with anticipation that this year will be their year.
Well-respected Kildare senior boss, Kieran McGeeney, also heads the U21s, and he’s blooded a lot of youngsters into the senior set-up this year – Paul Cribbin, Mark Donnellan, Niall Kelly, Daniel Flynn and Paddy Brophy all started for Kildare in their defeat to Tyrone in the semi-final of Division One of the National Football League last weekend.
For more, read this week’s Galway City 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.
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.