Footballers advance to All-Ireland semi-finals for first time since 2001

Galway forward Eamonn Branningan and Kildare's David Hyland in action from the GAA Super 8 game at St Conleth's Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare, Sunday. 
Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Galway forward Eamonn Branningan and Kildare's David Hyland in action from the GAA Super 8 game at St Conleth's Park, Newbridge, Co Kildare, Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Following their impressive 0-19 to 0-16 win over Kildare in Newbridge in the quarter-final round robin games, the Galway senior footballers will face Dublin, Tyrone or Donegal in the All-Ireland semi-final on the weekend of August 11/12.

Before that trip to Croke Park, they must take on Malachy O'Rourke's Monaghan on Saturday week (August 4 ) to see who tops the group.

A win or draw would see Galway take on the winners of the Donegal v Tyrone tie in Ballybofey; a defeat would see Kevin Walsh's squad face All-Ireland champions Dublin in a semi-final.

Regardless of which team they face in the last four, it was a real positive to see the footballers produce another solid display and continue on their path of improvement and consistent performances.

Consistency is key

During his four-year tenure Kevin Walsh has constantly talked about the need to have consistency in the team's displays, and against Kildare the overall curve was again upward.

The only team to beat Galway in league or championship in 2018 is Dublin in the league final, and Galway are now seen nationally as one of the genuine challengers to take on the Dubs and try to stop their gallop for a fourth All-Ireland title in succession.

There was a super atmosphere in Newbridge on Sunday, and the buzz in the terraces and in the stand transferred to the pitch. Both teams deserve huge credit for producing a terrific game of football in humid conditions.

Galway did struggle at times in the first half to get their defensive structure set up organised as Kildare really went at them with serious pace and power from their restarts.

That was obvious when Johnny Heaney kicked a glorious point to make it 0-6 apiece and before he had time to return to his position, the Kildare goalkeeper Mark Donnellan had the ball back in play and Kildare were streaming down the field on the attack.

The pace of the game was unrelenting in that first half and Galway performed really well to lead by 0-11 to 0-10 at half-time with the hugely influential Tom Flynn kicking a glorious point from distance to give them that slender lead.

The biggest negative from that half was the muscle injury to Michael Daly, who had kicked two lovely points inside the first 10 minutes before having to go off to be replaced by Patrick Sweeney.

The Mountbellew man started the game with serious intent and looked to be coming back to his best form. Hopefully he will be hail and hearty to start in the semi-final in three weeks' time. Everyone is a loss, and with Paul Conroy already gone for the rest of the year, Galway do not want any other injuries if they are going to take on the likes of Dublin in the coming weeks.

Super spread of scorers

Possibly the most impressive aspect of Galway's performance is that 13 players scored on the day with 16 of the points coming from play.

From Cathal Sweeney at wing-back, who had a powerful game, up to Eamonn Brannigan who won plenty of possession, every player raised flags with both Sean Armstrong and Gary O'Donnell coming on in the second half to hit important scores too.

However, if Galway are to contemplate competing with Dublin in Croke Park over the coming weeks, they will need to be far more ruthless and efficient with any goal chances they create.

There were at least four goal opportunities spurned last weekend - team captain Damien Comer and Patrick Sweeney being the biggest culprits.

Comer's was the best chance of a goal near the end of the game, and how the Annaghdown man did not lay the ball off to a totally free Seán Kelly who was inside him looking for the pass, is something only he can answer.

However, he needs to reflect on why he did not lay off the ball when it was the right thing to do, and play a bit more heads-up football.

With his power and pace, Comer creates a load of opportunities during a game and sometimes he can be a little bit one-dimensional in his play.

Unless players take the right options in front of goal, especially when a team has an overlap on the opposition, then they will not be raising too many green flags.

Overall, though, it was a terrific win and it is great to be back in the last four for the first time in 17 years.

Other positives were the display of Ruairí Lavelle, who hit some lovely kick-outs and is a player who has come on in leaps and bounds this season. Eoghan Kerin was super at corner back and is now one of the top few man-markers in the game.

Gareth Bradshaw worked hard and hit a gorgeous point from distance, and his long and accurate kicked pass in the second half was one of the highlights of the game.

Tom Flynn was immense around the middle, and was in many people's view a contender for man-of-the-match. Peter Cooke did really well in the engine room too.

The work-rate and support play of Cathal Sweeney, Eamonn Brannigan, Johnny Heaney and the fantastic Seán Kelly is a joy to behold as is the sublime movement and passing of the incomparable Ian Burke.

All in all it was a great day's work, and Kevin Walsh and his entire back room team can be rightly proud of the progress the squad have made thus far this year.

Monaghan are next up on Saturday week (Aug 4 ) and who knows what could happen the following weekend?

With the hurlers facing Clare on Saturay in Croke Park, these are exciting days for the GAA fraternity in the county.

Long may it last.


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