The Galway U20’s, gallantly led by team captain Jack Glynn and manager Dónál Ó’Fatharta, were crowned 2020 All Ireland champions on Saturday afternoon after a brilliant battling win over Dublin.
It was the sweetest victory for many players having lost the minor All-Ireland final in 2019, in addition to losing the previous year’s semi final in the U20 championship to Dublin.
The title rounded off a season which began on February 8 against Mayo and finished on December 19 in Croke Park with the Clarke Trophy heading back to Galway for the first time since 2013.
It made all the hard work put in by management and players during these difficult times so worthwhile. To put their season into context, during his speech captain Jack Glynn noted that the players had gone through three pre-seasons throughout this rollercoaster of a year.
On game day Galway had a number of obstacles to overcome. They were without giant midfielder from Moycullen James McLaughlin due to a knee problem, and another two players succumbed to injury during the contest as well. Cian Hernon, who was man of the match in the semi-final, and Cathal Sweeney, both limped off - two massive blows to Galway’s engine room.
However, the depth of the panel was displayed by the quality of the replacements. Jack Kirrane replaced Sweeney in the first half and went on to have a stormer at wing-back.
The Galway defence was the platform for this victory. Despite one shaky moment in the first half, goalkeeper Conor Flaherty was solid throughout, and his kickouts deadly accurate. Amazingly, the previous night, Flaherty starred at centre back for the U20 hurlers in their victory over Kilkenny.
The full-back line of Jonathon McGrath, Seán Fitzgerald and Jack Glynn, in particular, kept the Dubs inside line quiet. Glynn was tasked with marking the 2019 footballer of the year Ciaran Archer who had notched 1-23 to date this season. He kept the dangerous St Maurs' man to just a single point with a man of the match performance. Cian Monaghan, Jack Kirrane and midfielder Conor Raftery were tireless in their defensive efforts, while up front the duo of Matthew Tierney and Tomo Culhane did the scoring for Galway with tallies of 0-04 and 1-06 respectively.
Tierney also was the one to set up Culhane for his crucial goal. For Tierney and his Oughterard clubmates, Cian and Ryan Monaghan, it has been a prosperous 12 months, addig a second Celtic cross to their collection. Tierney rounded off Galway’s scoring with a clutch free late on.
Referee Paul Faloon of Down must also receive praise for a brilliant performance in the middle. With the clock running out and Dublin chasing a late equalising score, one of their players attempted to deceive the referee when running at speed in an attempt to earn a free for his side. The referee refused to buy it and waved play on with the final whistle soon following.
Galway were deserved winners and for certain we will see more of many of these young men in the maroon and white in the future.
It was not all good news for Galway football, however, as the Galway minors bowed out of the Connacht championship on Friday evening at the hands of Roscommon in the Connacht GAA centre of excellence.
They were beaten comprehensively on a scoreline of 2-13 to 0-11 as they exited at the semi-final stage in Alan Glynn’s disrupted first year in charge.