This Saturday the Galway U21 footballers head to O’Connor Park in Tullamore to face Dublin in the All-Ireland final (5pm ).
Gerry Fahy’s charges will be hoping to bring the All-Ireland title back to the county for the first time since 2013, and if they can replicate the terrific performance they produced against Kerry in the semi-final, they will not be too far away from doing just that.
Fahy has an experienced backroom team in Barry Cullinane, Val Daly, Ciaran O’Flatharta, Timmy Rabbitt and Tomás Mannion, who have all added value to the mix over the past few months.
While Galway looked superb in the first quarter of their semi-final win, every game is different. No doubt Dublin manager Dessie Farrell has studied the video footage and warned his players of the pace, movement and skill of the Galway forwards, such as team captain Michael Daly, Séan Kelly, and the lively Dessie Conneely.
Dublin will not want to give those players and others, such as Eoin Finnerty, Paul Mannion, Robert Finnerty and Colin Brady, the space they were given in the opening 20 minutes of the semi-final, and it is unlikely Dublin will start as open at the back as Kerry did in Ennis before they relocated their wing-forward as a sweeper to stop the bleed.
Gerry Fahy, with a full team from which to select for Saturday’s clash, is expecting a tough challenge.
“Dublin can play it either way,” he says. “Lots of bodies back, or some very attractive attacking football at times too. They break with real pace from the back, and we know we will have to be at our best and produce a big performance to beat them.
“We are where we want to be and we have had a long journey to get to this stage with lots of ups and downs in it. Now though we are really looking forward to the challenge and are fully focused on producing good performances all over the field.
“The whole point of us getting involved is to give these guys a chance to test themselves and see what they can do at this level. So far they have excelled. It is about giving them a platform to play to the best of their ability.
“The squad has had four chances to play U21 championship football [Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo and Kerry] this year and they have another opportunity to do so this weekend. All our games have been against good quality opposition and they have been getting tougher as we go along the road. We have been improving as the year has gone on and that is very satisfying for everyone involved.
“This game is another chance for the lads to show what they are made of and we have huge faith in them to deliver the goods. The one thing that has shone through all our games is being able to play the game at a high level. We have a panel with good technical skills, and once they apply a really high work ethic with that, it gives them a good chance of success. And this weekend is no different.”
The foundation stone
Against Kerry in the semi-final Peter Cooke and Cein D’Arcy were marvellous at midfield and really gave Galway the foundation rock on which to build. Cooke was impressive in the air and in possession, and D’Arcy has a top class work-rate and attitude that is infectious. They complement each other well.
The half-back line of Kieran Molloy, Dylan McHugh and the rampaging Cillian McDaid need to have big games too as will the imposing Séan Andy Ó Ceallaigh who hails from Leitir Mór and lines out at full-back.
All over the pitch the Galway lads will need to produce big displays and have a top class work-rate from start to finish if they are to be crowned All-Ireland champions by 6.30pm on Saturday evening.
The players on the squad are good enough to beat Dublin and win, but will need to produce the necessary performance.