Ballinasloe’s big day in Croke Park
The Ballinasloe footballers, and their ever increasing band of supporters, head to Dublin for Sunday’s All-Ireland Junior final meeting with Kenmare Shamrocks (Kerry) at Croke Park (2pm).
The local "guesstimate" was that there were around 3,000 Ballinasloe people in Breffni Park in Cavan to see the Galway champions beat Port Mor (Armagh) by 2-7 to 0-10 in the semi-final, and they are hope to have upwards of 4,000 supporters in Croke Park this Sunday to cheer on team captain Keith Kelly and his team.
Team manager Sean Riddle is looking for the team to finish off the season with All-Ireland success.
"So far, so good as regards preparation. We have no major injuries and we expect to be able to pick and announce the team on Saturday from the full panel of lads who have trained all year.
"We have trained hard over the past few weeks and, while it was difficult to plan for when exactly the final was on, [Kenmare drew with Castleknock twice in their semi-final and had to go to a third meeting], we are fully focused on doing our best on Sunday and producing the best performance we can."
In order to win on Sunday, the St Grellan's management and supporters will be looking for really big defensive displays from former Galway underage star James Shaughnessy, current county senior Keith Kelly and goal-keeper Nathan King, who will need to thwart former Kerry senior player Paul O' Connor who has been in terrific form for the Munster champions. O' Connor lines out at full-forward, and interchanging with number 11 when required.
At midfield for Ballinalsoe, Liam Lynch has been inspirational at times this year and Sunday would be a great day to produce another top-drawer display.
Up front, Riddle and his selectors Cathal Croffy, Pat Cunningham, Cathal Coleman, and Lloyd Kelly will be hoping Dara McCormack, Paul Whelehan, Garry Canavan, Padraic Cunningham and Michael Colohan will hit a match-winning tally.
Riddle won Galway county senior medals with the club in 1979 and 1980 and he remains pragmatic about the challenge they face this weekend.
"Kenmare is a very experienced and balanced team and will have improved from the three games in the semi-final. They work very hard for each other and, if we give them space and room, they are well able to exploit it. Nevertheless, we have a lot of faith in our lads to keep a tight rein on them.
"If we play to our full potential, and work as hard as we know we have to on Sunday, we have every chance. It is a hard game to call, but we believe we can do it.
" There is a superb atmosphere in the town for the past few weeks and there is great bunting all around the town. The supporters have been terrific and they have really connected and bonded with this team. At the start of the year, our primary aim was to get back to intermediate football in Galway, but your objectives change and we are going to Dublin to try to win the title.
"However, football is like life. You don't know how it will pan out for you. We will be giving it our absolute best shot, and hopefully Keith [Kelly]will be hoisting the All-Ireland Cup around 3.30pm on Sunday. That is the plan anyway. We will have to wait and see how it works out."