Which would you rather do? Play well and lose? Or play badly, ride your luck a bit, and win?
We all know there is only one answer to that question, and while the Galway u-21s did not play as well as they could last Saturday evening in their clash with Roscommon in Hyde Park, at least they still crossed the finishing line as champions.
Lucky? Perhaps: Winners? Definitely.
Galway captain and high-fielding midfielder Fiontán Ó Curraoin raised the JJ Fahy Cup after his team won by 1-17 to 2-11 after extra-time.
It was a result that did not look likely with Roscommon leading by three points heading into the last few minutes.
Nigel Dineen’s team had lorded possession for most of the second half, but they lacked the ruthlessness and efficiency in front of goal to close out a win. Five consecutive wides in the final quarter when they were three to the good tells us how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. That said, Galway still had to come back and level the game before steamrolling the home team in extra-time.
Galway u-21 team manager Alan Flynn said although Galway was in a poor position going into the last few minutes of normal time, the lads had kept their composure.
“They did not start trying for goals. They held their nerve and that is to their credit. This group of lads has a lot of character and a bit of steel to them. They showed that against Mayo in the semi-final and they showed it again last weekend when it was needed most.”
It was Shane Walsh (Kilkerrin Clonberne ) who showed the sangfroid to pop over two pressure frees and one from play to level the game after an assist by man-of-the-match Ian Burke.
Walsh had been a little wasteful earlier, but he showed the temperament and self-confidence to hit the last few scores, which was not easy, as they were all pressure kicks.
Galway had to hold on by their finger nails for most of the second half to stay in the tie and even the most partisan Galway supporter would acknowledge that Roscommon were in a great position to win the game, except for their inaccuracy which was described as “unforgivable” by their manager Nigel Dineen.
“The chances we missed, what can you do? They were unforgivable. We still thought we had a chance going into extra time. Maybe we’d get a lucky break or something like that if we kept plugging away. But they ran us off our feet in the end and we couldn’t cope with it,” he said.
“The forwards missed the chances, but we missed a few frees too that we’d normally get on another day. Look, that’s the way football goes. Some days it goes for you and some days it doesn’t.”
Galway’s star performers
Thankfully Galway had some sterling displays, none more so than Ian Burke who hit 0-6 from play over the evening. The Corofin youngster was lively throughout and his brace of points just before half time were crucial. Team captain Fiontán Ó Curraoin also had a very fine performance. His high fielding was especially impressive and he won a load of primary possession from kick-outs over the evening.
It was also good to see Tom Flynn back in action and he will improve as he gets fitter and back into the groove. Full-back James Shaughnessy did some good things too and he is inspirational at times. Others who caught the eye were Damien Comer, Adrian Varley, Cathal Mulryan and Mark Loughnane.
Galway will now face Kildare in Tullamore on Saturday week at 2pm in the All-Ireland semi-final. Kildare are hot favourites to win the competition and it will take a big step-up if Galway are to beat them.
Kildare are 13/8 to win the All-Ireland u-21 this year, with Galway available at 10/3.
Kildare are strong favourites at 4/7 to win the match, with Alan Flynn’s charges at 7/4 or better.
Galway: T Healy (Corofin ), L Silke (Corofin ), J Shaughnessy (Ballinasloe ), E Walsh (Moycullen ), M Loughnane (St Gabriels ), G Canavan (Salthill-Knocknacarra ), P Varley (Cortoon Shamrocks ); F O’Curraoin (cpt, Micheal Breathnach ), D Comer (Annaghdown ); C Mulryan (Cortoon Shamrocks ), S Moran (Claregalway ), S Maughan (St Michael’s ); S Walsh (Kilkerrin-Clonberne ), A Varley (Cortoon Shamrocks ), I Burke (Corofin ). Subs: T Flynn (Athenry ) for Silke (28m ), C Rabbitte (Kilkerrin-Clonberne ) for Maughan (44m ), P Cunningham (Ballinasloe ) for Moran (45m ), P Ezergailis (Moycullen ) for Canavan (49m ), G Kelly (Williamstown ) for Comer (59m ), D Cunnane (St Michael’s ) for E Walsh (ET ), D Comer for Mulryan (75m ), S Maughan for A Varley (76m ), M Heskin (Salthill-Knocknacarra ) for Cunningham (78m ).