The hotly anticipated Claregalway Hotel Galway Senior Football Championship final between fierce rivals Corofin and Mountbellew-Moylough takes place in Pearse Stadium on Sunday (1.30pm ).
Annaghdown’s Thomas Murphy is in charge of refereeing this game as he did so when the two sides met last season at the semi-final stage.
In the eight successive years these two clubs have clashed, Mountbellew-Moylough’s only win over their opponents came in that dramatic dethroning of Corofin last season. And, having then gone on to lose that final to Moycullen, they will be determined to claim a fifth title - their last in 1986
Many people within the county will fancy Mountbellew-Moylough to topple Corofin once again, despite the prices the bookies are offering. At the start of the season Corofin were 4/7 favourites to regain the crown after Moycullen halted their bid for an eighth title in a row last year; Mountbellew were 7/2 to bag their fifth county title. This week the odds have narrowed to 1/2 and 2/1 respectively.
Val Daly’s outfit has already exacted some revenge for last season's fall at the final hurdle when they dismantled champions Moycullen a fortnight ago, and now they are in prime position to finally lift the Frank Fox Trophy after years of falling short. The manner in which they squeezed the life out of Moycullen, nullifying much of their forward threat, was most impressive in that victory.
When their defence does the job as well as they did in the semi-final, it allows stars further up the pitch to flourish. Michael Daly, Eoin Finnerty, Barry McHugh, Patrick Kelly and John Daly, bursting forward from defence, have been the main score getters for Mountbellew-Moylough. There will be an expectation and reliance for those five names to deliver once again on Sunday as they are the go-to men on that team. In particular, Patrick Kelly’s and John Daly’s eye for goal has been a feature of their play. Kelly’s first goal against Moycullen was a wonder strike as he plucked a ball which came down with snow on it, and stayed calm to finish with aplomb. Kelly also linked with Daly who put the icing on the cake in that win. Kelly will have to be well marshalled by the Corofin contingent if they are to give themselves a platform to win.
Corofin’s win over Killannin in the semi-final was a done deal at half-time as they held an unassailable position. Crucially for Corofin, they got a full 60 minutes into the legs of Daithi Burke who was excellent on the day, covering every blade of grass from wing-back. Kevin O’Brien also gave Ian Burke his first outing of the season in what was an impressive cameo by the former All-Star forward, who had taken some brief time away from the squad.
In a first in a very long time, Corofin are not overwhelming favourites to lift the cup, and there will be a different expectation. Whether this affects the mentality and performance of the players remains to be seen.
From a neutral perspective, the small one-on-one battles around the pitch will be intriguing. Will Liam Silke be tasked once again with attempting to shackle Eoin Finnerty? This is an almost impossible ask for 60 minutes, but trying to keep Finnerty’s impact to a minimum should be the goal.
How will Corofin be able to contain John Daly’s forward threat? The centre back has orchestrated and finished numerous attacks for his side throughout the championship. Is there a Corofin defender capable of containing Patrick Kelly in the full-forward line?
The prospect of these duels ensures Sunday's final is a mouth-watering one for the fans, and they will have the answers to all of these questions whether it is a first title for Mountbellew-Moylough since 1986, or an eighth Corofin title in nine years.