Dónál Ó’Fatharta’s Galway U20 side, having produced a magnificent performance against the odds to overcome a strongly fancied Kerry team last Saturday, may not to get to play their All Ireland final against Dublin.
The match, which had been fixed for Saturday in Portlaoise, has been called off as a result of the newly introduced Covid-19 restrictions which only allows elite sport to continue.
According to Galway GAA chairman Pat Kearney, Croke Park confirmed the decision yesterday morning, and while it is hoped it can be refixed in the future, no decision has yet been made.
It is a bitter blow for the U20s, who under the stewardship of ex-Laois manager John Sugrue, produced a 1-15 to 1-10 win to set up meeting with Dublin in the All Ireland final.
While Dublin edged a tight contest by 1-14 to 1-12 against Tyrone with Player of Year Ciaran Archer contributing 0-6, Galway ensured their victory without the services of seven players due to Covid concerns, Cathal Sweeney, James McLaughlin, Paul Kelly, Tomo Culhane, Daniel Cox, Brian Mannion and Warren Seoige, who were replaced by Jack Kirrane, Cian Hernon, Patrick Kelly and Oisín Gormally respectively.
Galway began on the backfoot as Kerry piled the pressure on in the early stages with full-forward Eddie Horan at the heart of everything good from the favourites. It was a fascinating battle on the inside line as two massive men, Horan and Galway full-back Seán Fitzgerald, got to grips with each other. Slowly but surely, Galway felt their way into the game after a sluggish start.
Marauding wing-back Cian Monaghan hit the back of the net for Galway’s first score after he was set up by clubmate Matthew Tierney. And, a lot of credit must go to the Galway half-back line as they produced some magnificent ball carrying when their side was struggling.
Monaghan, Tony Gill and Jack Kirrane were brilliant in the first half as they dug their heels in and brought Galway back into the game, winning frees and taking scores. Former minor player of the year Paul Walsh, operating at corner forward for Kerry, kicked two beautiful scores off his left from similar angles in the first half.
Galway’s backs looked to be against the wall when Ruaidhri Ó’Beaglaoich rifled the ball into Conor Flaherty’s net to put Kerry ahead 1-07 to 1-03 on the half hour mark and the signs were ominous. However, a black card for Kerry midfielder Seán Keane for a high tackle proved to be a turning point.
Placed balls from Matthew Tierney and Matthew Cooley in added time before the break reduced the deficit to two at the interval. The wind was in Galway sails as they flew out of the blocks in the second half - Matthew Tierney kicking four points on the trot, three from frees and a mark to go with it.
Tierney was impeccable from placed balls all day as Kerry’s discipline let them down, but goalkeeper Deividas Uosis kept Kerry in the game with two superbly struck frees from distance. However, an injury to centre back Dylan Casey and a second black card derailed any hopes they might have had for a comeback as Matthew Cooley, Nathan Grainger and Hernon added scores.
Galway showed the depth of their squad as Nathan Grainger, Jason Reilly and MacDara Geraghty powered them home to a comfortable victory in the end on a scoreline of 1-15 to 1-10. Midfielders Conor Raftery and man of the match Cian Hernon were exceptional in the second half as they broke up Kerry attacks and drove Galway forward time and again with powerful running. The half-time redeployment of Matthew Tierney at full-forward and Patrick Kelly at centre forward also proved crucial to Galway’s marvellous second-half display.
GALWAY: Conor Flaherty, Jonathan McGrath, Seán Fitzgerald, Jack Glynn, Cian Monahan, Tony Gill, Jack Kirranne, Conor Raftery, Cian Hernon, Alan Greene, Matthew Tierney, Ryan Monahan, Patrick Kelly, Oisín Gormley, Matthew Cooley. Subs: Eoin Mannion for Gormley (45 ), Jason Reilly for Greene (54 ), Nathan Grainger for Tierney (58 ), Macdara Geraghty for Cooley (62 ).
KERRY: Deividas Uosis, Owen Fitzgerald, Alan Dineen, James McCarthy, Luka Brosnan, Dylan Casey, Seán O’Brien, Seán O’Connell, Michael O’Gara, Seán Keane, Eddie Horan, Killian Falvey, Paul Walsh, Seán Horan, Ruaidhri Ó Beaglaoich Subs: Dylan Geaney for Walsh (h-t ), Jack Kennelly for Casey (35 ), Conor Hayes for Keane (49 ), David Mangan for Falvey (54 ), Darragh Lynch for S Horan (57 ).
Referee: Barry Tiernan (Dubln ).