Galway minors battle hard, but fall short at the finish

The Galway minor football squad 2018 at the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship final in Croke Park.

The Galway minor football squad 2018 at the Electric Ireland GAA Football All-Ireland Minor Championship final in Croke Park.

The Galway U17 footballers battled to the bitter end in Sunday's All-Ireland final before falling short by four points to a history-making Kerry side by 0-21 to 1-14.

The Galway players and management team will be bitterly disappointed to have lost this Croke Park final having carved chances in the first half to put some real daylight between the sides following a well-taken goal by Tony Gill.

Galway hit Kerry for 1-07 without reply between the 11th and 26th minutes, and led by seven points at one stage in the first half.

They also had a few other scoring chances that could have put them in a really promising position going into the dressing-room at half-time.

Eoghan Tinney flicked a ball towards goal from close range that unluckily rebounded off the Kerry goalkeeper, while centre-forward Aidan Halloran also popped two shots narrowly to the right hand side of the Kerry posts when scores looked likely.

An extra 1-02 for Galway was not beyond the bounds of possibility with a wee bit of good fortune.

Galway led by four points, 1-09 to 0-8 at half-time, but that margin could easily have been six or seven. The reality is that they needed that cushion to weather the inevitable Kerry fightback in the second half.

Kerry are a serious outfit with lots of pedigree, and they really took over in the second half, outscoring a tiring Galway by four points in the closing minutes to make history as five-in-a-row All-Ireland minor winners.

Their manager Peter Keane, who has led the county to the last three minor titles, is now a genuine contender for the senior vacancy down south.

Ó Fátharta proud

Despite the loss, Galway manager Donal Ó Fátharta is proud of the effort his charges produced to try to win a first minor title for the county since 2007.

His team went down 0-4 to 0-1 in the opening 10 minutes, but showed great character to storm back with 1-7 to rattle the Munster champions. However, Kerry crucially hit the last few points before half-time to reduce the margin to four. They then upped the tempo around the middle in the second half and picked up most of the breaking ball, with midfielder Darragh Rahilly driving forward to hit two fine scores.

It is Kerry’s 16th title, and the word from a Kerry man in Croke Park on Sunday, is that next year's gang are a special bunch too. They played the Dublin U16 squad earlier in the year and beat them by some 25 points which is ominous.

While Galway were well outscored by Kerry in the final 10 minutes, they had a few chances to go ahead in the final quarter. Tomo Culhane, who did well on his introduction hitting 0-2, tried to flick a ball into an unmarked Paul Kelly, only for it to be cut out by the Kerry rear-guard.

A goal for Galway at that juncture would have asked some hard questions of the Kerry team, but it was not to be.

Considering Ó Fátharta and his management team lost at least four high quality U17 footballers due to what was an unreasonable decision to make them focus exclusively on hurling this year, advancing to an All-Ireland final and competing well for the full hour was a considerable achievement.

They lost no honour in defeat, and players such as Seán Black, Cian Deane, Ethan Walsh, Cathal Sweeney, Paul Kelly, Tony Gill and team captain Conor Raftery, worked themselves into the ground for the cause against bigger, taller and more physically imposing opponents.

Hopefully we will see a good group of this U17 squad wear the maroon and white at U20 and senior level in the future.

Galway scorers: M Cooley 0-5 (0-4f ), T Gill 1-0, C Raftery 0-2, T Culhane 0-2, R Monahan 0-1, E Tinney 0-1, L Judge 0-1, P Kelly 0-1, O Gormley 0-1.

Galway: D Halloran (Cortoon Shamrocks ), E Walsh (Cortoon Shamrocks ), S Black (Clifden ), C Deane (Moycullen ), R Monahan (Oughterard ), T Gill (Corofin ), C Sweeney (Salthill Knocknacarra ), P Kelly (Moycullen ), C Raftery (c ) (Glenamaddy ), L Judge (Caherlistrane ), A Halloran (Salthill Knocknacarra ), S Horkan (St Gabriels ), E Tinney (Salthill Knocknacarra ), D Cox (Moycullen ), M Cooley (Corofin ). Subs: T Culhane (Clane, Kildare ), O McCormack (Ballinasloe ), O Gormley (Barna ), C Halbard (Corofin ), C Hernon (Barna ), E McCormack (An Cheathru Rua ).

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