Sometimes you can regret going to a sporting encounter. The return on your investment is just not there and halfway through the second half of the match – if it is an evening event - you may find yourself wondering if you’d prefer an Indian or a Chinese or a Nico’s special as a take-out on the way home. That is never a good sign of the contest that you had hoped would enthral you, but let’s be honest here, these things do happen.
Thankfully it is an unusual occurrence in Gaelic games, but last Saturday evening in Tuam stadium was a real test of loyalty for the Galway and Sligo supporters, who to their credit travelled to support their respective minor teams.
Only the diehards were there. And the diehard is getting scarce on the ground.
It was a horrible, wet, dank evening. You know the ones that leave you feeling chilled and damp to the bone, even though it is the month of May.
So to be fair to the players on both sides the conditions were atrocious for football, although the pitch and stadium were in fine fettle.
The standard of fare on offer was moderate at best, but the only thing that matters in the first round of the championship is getting to the next round and Galway are in the hat. They play Mayo on the weekend of June 27 and 28. (The Galway seniors – if they beat London – play Sligo on the Sunday in Sligo ).
Gerry Fahy’s charges were fortunate to survive a stern test from Sligo, and if the Yeats’ men had been more clinical in the second quarter, they would have led by more than 0-5 to 0-2 at half time. Thankfully from a Galway perspective they were overly dependent on the free taking of Curry’s David Maye, who hit five of their seven points, with four coming from frees.
Most of Galway’s stars were in defence with Jonathan Duane (St James ) and Garry Sweeney (Mountbellew ) excelling in the full-back line. Shane Coughlan also put in a productive stint and won a few important balls at vital stages.
Dual star Brian Flaherty held the middle well too, and he snapped up a few good breaks and made some solid raids from centre back to lift the siege in the first half. Salthill’s Conor Halloran was solid at wing-back and held his man scoreless, which is a defender’s primary job.
Midfield can improve
The midfield partnership of the two Ronans – Steede and O’ Connell - will have to improve. While both did some positive things, they need to be more consistent and dominant in the semi-final. They are well capable of doing that.
Steede is team captain and he did hit a terrific point that showed great skill and leadership in the second half which rallied his side, but he will need to show more of that drive against Mayo if Galway are to advance.
He has oceans of ability, and when he cuts through the middle at speed, he is an undeniable threat. We hope to see more of that the next day out.
Eric Monaghan did some good things at full-forward and worked hard all through. He hit 0-3 (1f ) and was the only Galway player to score in the first half. On a dry day and with better quality ball coming in, he looks like a player who could do some real damage on most rearguards.
Patrick Sweeney worked hard at centre-forward and he won a superb free that he dispatched himself at a crucial stage. He also caused a lot of trouble for Liam O’Connell, the Sligo full-back, when he was repositioned at full-forward in the last 15 minutes. To be a better player he needs to work on his shooting as he was guilty of some poor shot selection and hit four or five wides.
The Galway management team will feel that they made their substitutions at the right stage and it is difficult to argue with that view as substitute Cathal Sweeney was barely on the field of play when he combined brilliantly with Halloran and his twin Patrick to rattle in the all-important and match winning score - a well taken goal.
Indeed Cathal Sweeney looked very lively and eager on his introduction and no doubt he will push hard for a starting place the next day out.
It may not have been pretty, but the bottom line is that Galway are in a Connacht semi-final and Sligo, while being a tad unfortunate, are out of the race for another year.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, I went for the Indian. Lamb Rogan Josh, and very nice it was too.
Galway minors: Manus Breathnach, Shane Coughlan, Jonathan Duane, Gary Sweeney, Shane Bohan, Brian Flaherty, Conor Halloran, Ronan Steede (0-1 ), Ronan O’Connell, Padraic Cunningham, Patrick Sweeney (0-1, 1f ), Fiontan O’Curraoin, David Wynne, Eric Monaghan (0-3, 1f ), John Ross Bodkin. Subs used: Cathal Sweeney (1-0 ), Tom Flynn, Brian O’Connell.