An Spideál’s Dónal O’Fatharta begins his reign as U20 manager on Saturday after stepping up from the minor job to fill Padraic Joyce’s shoes.
‘Ducky’s’ tenure begins with a trip to Castlebar this coming Saturday to face Mayo with throw-in at 2pm in a winner-takes-all as there is no back-door in this Connacht competition.
It is hoped there will be a strong Galway following once again this year, while undoubtedly there will be a large Mayo contingent who will fancy their chances despite a disappointing loss to Galway in last year’s final.
Galway is blessed to have several of last year's squad again available, including Jack Kirrane, Brian Harlowe, Matthew Tierney and Tony Gill from last year's semi-final loss to Dublin. Add in goalkeeper Conor Flaherty, Seán Fitzgerald, Cian Deane, Jack Glynn, Brian Mannion, Eoin Mannion, Oisín McDonagh, Conor O’Neill and Jason Reilly, who all played on numerous occasions during last year’s campaign, and Dónal Ó’Fatharta at a competitive squad at his disposal.
Some of these players such as Kirrane, Glynn and Fitzgerald are in their third season at this level, and O’Fatharta will be relying on their experience to help get over the line on Saturday.
He has also called up a number of his minors - keeper Donie Halleran, Jonny McGrath, Cathal Sweeney, Conor Raftery, James McLoughlin, Paul Kelly, Aidan Halleran, Tomo Culhane, Matthew Cooley, Nathan Grainger and Oisín Gormally, and a few will be expected to play key roles at certain stages.
A mention must go to MacDara Geraghty of Glenamaddy who was part of the Connacht Championship winning Galway junior team last season, but opted out of playing for the U20 team for personal reasons. He will be a vital cog of this Galway side if they are to be successful.
Galway played three games in the pre-season competition the John Kerins Cup, which was a hugely successful competition last year, but did not attract the same attention this year due to its clash with the FBD league campaign.
Galway played Cork in Mallow and also played Kerry twice, both home and away. Despite marginally losing all three games, nothing should be read into these results due to the experimental nature of the games.
The timing of this U20 competition has come under scrutiny nationally with players and managers feeling the competition has been undermined by the hurried manner in which fixtures were made. In what is always a wonderful age to watch free-flowing football and see players develop just before making the step-up to senior, the competition could have been handled better.