There is a real sense of anticipation in football circles around Galway this week ahead of the two county senior semi-finals in Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
First up is Mountbellew Moylough and Salthill Knocknacarra (1.30pm ) and that will be followed by the clash of All-Ireland champions Corofin and the team that came closest to beating them in championship last season, Annaghdown, at 3.15pm.
Salthill Knocknacarra will be in action for a third week in a row this weekend, and their management team of Anthony Finnerty and Maurice Sheridan will be letting their squad rest up this week to try to recover from two gruelling games that both went to extra-time against Milltown.
They did well to get past that challenge last Sunday - but most of the headlines and conversations from that game were about the utterly disgraceful and totally unacceptable actions by an individual towards the referee when the match had concluded, and the individual involved should be banned by his own club in the first instance for his actions. It brings the game into total disrepute and is a poor example for young members of any club,
Without referees, there are no matches, and incidents like last weekend’s do nothing to encourage young men or women to take up the whistle.
Genuine supporters of any club in any code and those who purport to be fans of sporting occasions and teams would hang their heads in shame if they, or anyone close to them, were involved in such unruly behaviour.
It is not on, and anyone who thinks it is acceptable in any shape or form is asinine in the extreme.
In the cold light of day, why would anyone engage in such behaviour? What can anyone hope to achieve?
On the field of play, Mountbellew will look to John and Michael Daly, Paul Donnellan, Barry McHugh, Mark Mannion and Leo Donnellan to steer them back to another county final, and experienced team manager Michael Donnellan will have them well organised for the challenge.
The Seasiders though will have a pep in their step after last weekend, and if Robert Finnerty and the equaliser king Seán Armstrong get enough possession, they can trouble the Mountbellew rearguard.
Corofin must hit good form
Kevin O’Brien’s Corofin have been doing enough to get this far, playing in patches. However, they will know that Michael Geoghegan’s Annaghdown will be the best team they have faced in the county championship in 2018 and they will need to hit some consistent form over the hour to advance.
The Annaghdown men easily defeated St James the last day out and hit 2-15 in that win.
Frankie Burke (1-05, 3fs ) and Damien Comer (0-4 ) are their two marquee forwards and it will be interesting to see who Corofin assign to mark them. Liam Silke did a good job on Comer last year, but the Galway captain is a tough man to stop if he gets possession close to the opposition goal. The further he roams out the field, the better for Corofin as the easier he will be to nullify.
Annaghdown have strong ball winners around the middle in Ciaran Duggan and Niall Coleman, and Enda Mullarkey and Johnny Creaven are good players too. They have a few injuries and their medical team will have been flat out for the past two weeks trying to get defender Anthony Pender back to full-fitness.
Corofin have a few quality forwards, and if Ian Burke, Gary Sice, Martin Farragher, Michéal Lundy and youngsters like Darragh Silke get regular supply, they will do damage.
Michael Farragher, Daithí Burke and Kieran Fitzgerald all came on two weeks ago in their win over Caherlistrane and their return strengthens the management team’s options and gives them choices off the bench.
It should be a very tight game, but Corofin’s greater scoring threat up front, if they get supply, should see them through assuming that they get into their groove and play with real intensity and purpose.
It is a game not to be missed.