Heart of Galway reach a first All Ireland final

Heart Of Galway 3-09

Ulster Coaches 2-08

An amazing second-half turnaround resulted in a first appearance in an Interfirms All Ireland Senior Football Championship final for The Heart of Galway.

In a match which was played in a foggy Kenagh venue in Longford, both sides served up a cracking tussle. While Galway were only four points down at half-time, they trailed by nine after 25 minutes of the first half.

However a Joe Bergin goal just before half-time gave the Galway men hope, and when Brian Conneely grabbed two goals midway through the second half, the comeback was complete. Galway led by five at this stage, and although the Ulster men, who were rocked by the western onslaught, fought back valiantly, the Heart Of Galway were not to be denied a final appearance.

Ulster started the brighter. With Tyrone county stars Ryan Mellon and Joe Mahon particularly prominent, they raced into an early lead. A goal and a point apiece from Ruairi Convery and Paul Rice had the Ulster Coaches eight clear inside the opening 10 minutes.

Joe Bergin, from a free, opened Galway’s account after 12 minutes. Another point from Seamus Crowe reduced the arrears approaching the end of the first quarter, but successive points from Stephen Beatty, Eoin Mooney, and Stephen Donnelly opened up a nine-point lead for the Coaches approaching half time.

Galway staged a late rally, and points from Philip Lydon and Seamie Crowe reduced the leeway before a fine Joe Bergin goal approaching half-time ensured Galway were back in contention, trailing by only four at the break, 2-5 to 1-4.

Galway continued the momentum, coming out in the second half with intent. Mark Lydon and Joe Bergin established control around the centre of the field. Two Nicky Joyce points inside the opening seven minutes brought the gap down to two.

Galway grew in confidence and this was evident all over the field with the Galway men winning all the individual tussles. They hit the front for the first time after 12 minutes when Brian Conneely blasted home from close range. After being in control for the majority of the first half, the Ulster Coaches were rocked by Galway’s resurgence. Moments later Mark Lydon landed a fine point to leave them two up approaching the final quarter.

When a long delivery from Joe Bergin was misjudged by the Ulster defence, Brian Conneely was on hand to fist home Galway’s third goal with 14 minutes remaining. From being nine points down coming up to half time they were now five clear. In this 20 minute period they hit 3-5 without reply.

The Ulster Coaches made a few switches to stem the tide. Stephen Donnelly landed Ulster’s first point of the second half with 12 minutes remaining. This was followed by another Donnelly point before Denis Hollywood’s long-range effort reduced the gap to two with seven minutes remaining.

The exchanges were exciting as both teams gave it their all. However it was the Galway men who finished stronger with late points from Ray Conneely and Gary O Donnell before a fine save from keeper Martin McDonagh kept Ulster at bay. It now sets up the Heart of Galway, managed by Tom Nally, Prionsios Kitt, Brendan Molloy, and Frank Rice, with a first All Ireland appearance.

Heart of Galway: M McDonagh, D McDonagh, C Begley, A Grehan, A Keane, S Brady, G O Donnell (0-1 ), M Lydon (0-1 ), J Bergin (1-1 ), R Conneely (0-1 ), D Mahon, B Lawless, S Crowe (0-2 ), B Conneely (2-0 ), P Lydon (0-1 ),Subs: N Joyce (0-2 ), C Kyne.

Ulster Coaches: P Callaghan, C O Toole, C Goldrick, C Murtagh, K McQuade, J Mahon, D Kelly, S Beatty (0-1 ), R Mellon, E Mooney (0-1 ), S Donnelly (0-3 ), D Hollywood(0-1 ), R Convery (1-1 ), N Walshe, P Rice (1-1 ).

Referee: Michael O Brien (Longford ).

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