This year’s EirGrid All-Ireland semi-final will take place on Saturday at 4pm behind closed doors at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick (live on TG4 ).
There was major doubt as to whether this competition would be completed, but thankfully it was given the go-ahead, along with the return of the senior intercounty fixtures this weekend.
Galway will be underdogs against a fancied Kerry side that has All-Ireland medal winners all over the pitch from their days at minor level. The two sides have already faced each other twice this season in the John Kerins Cup - the Kingdom emerging victorious on both occasions. However, they will be well aware that championship football is a different kettle of fish and, given that neither team has played a competitive game for such a long time given the Covid layoff, anything can happen on the day.
Kerry prevailed in the Munster Championship following a strong second half performance against last year’s All-Ireland champions Cork. Meanwhile Galway hammered Roscommon in awful conditions in Tuam Stadium. But any momentum gained from their respective wins is well and truly lost at this stage. However, the club championships offered some insight as to who the strong performers may be for Dónál Ó’Fatharta’s Galway, who undoubtedly kept a close eye on his players. Unfortunately, he will nothave the pick of his Moycullen players Paul Kelly, James McLoughlin and Daniel Cox, who have been ruled out due to Covid concerns within the club, and they will be massive losses.
From the starting XV in the Connacht final against Roscommon:
Conor Flaherty – The Claregalway man earned his place in the sticks to usurp long-time servant Brian O’Donoghue and really proved his worth. His kick-outs for Claregalway were top class and he is extremely comfortable bringing the ball out from defence., while being more than capable of picking out a pass.
Jonathan McGrath – The tigerish corner back was making his debut in senior football this season. Played his part in Caherlistrane’s shock win over Tuam Stars where he was tenacious at the back.
Sean Fitzgerald – Playing at centre back for his club, but full back for the county, Fitzgerald had a solid club championship in what is his third year as a panelist. He has been a rock at the back for Barna this season in their super run to the quarter finals.
Jack Glynn – Deployed at wing-back by his club Claregalway. Glynn may be better suited to the corner back role as he is extremely tight marking. Well able to get forward and nab a score.
Cian Monahan – Will be disappointed with Oughterard’s run in the championship, but will have learned a lot from playing senior football. Hopefully he can bring this to the game on Saturday.
Tony Gill – Suffered an injury in club training which ruled him out of any potential appearances for Corofin. Gill has been exceptional for this team both in defence and attack.
Cathal Sweeney – Another player who suffered from injuries during the club championship. Hopefully for Galway’s sake the Salthill-Knocknacarra man is back to full fitness as he is one of the best young players in the county.
James McLoughlin – Unfortunately, following a super year for Moycullen, McLoughlin will miss out on Saturday due to Covid concerns.
Conor Raftery – Starred at midfield in a Glenamaddy team which battled its way out of relegation. Is the engine in the middle of the park for Galway.
Ryan Monahan – Much like many of the Oughterard players, Monahan will have gained a lot from a year at senior level. His pace will cause Kerry all sorts of problems.
Matthew Tierney – A quiet championship by the lofty standards he has set for himself at such a young age. He will likely be targeted by the Kerry defence.
Paul Kelly – Like McLoughlin, he will miss out on Saturday.
Alan Greene – The Oranmore-Maree clubman had a solid campaign despite bowing out at the quarter final stage.
Tomo Culhane – Was a nightmare for defences at senior level. Deceptively strong and deadly accurate, similar to Tierney, the Salthill-Knocknacarra man will be dogged by the Kerry backs.
Matthew Cooley – Scored a goal on his debut for Corofin, started the next game and did not see any game time after. He is lightning quick with a real eye for goal.
Other notable performers on the bench during the club championship were Tuam Stars’ Brian Mannion, Kilconly’s Conor O’Neill, Leitir Mór’s Warren Seoige, Barna’s Oisín Gormally and MacDara Geraghty of Glenamaddy.
The game will be shown live on TG4.