All to play for as Galway take on Derry for a place in the final

Galway's GAA fans are back on the road again this weekend when they face another trek to Croke Park for the much-anticipated All Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final against Derry.

With the excitement of their quarter-final win against Armagh having barely abated, Galway fans are now anticipating taking a step closer to an All Ireland decider.

Galway boss Padraic Joyce will be doing his best to dampen expectations within the squad, but it is an exciting time - Galway, just one game away from a first All-Ireland final in 21 years; Derry's one and only All-Ireland win was in 1993, beating Cork 1-14 to 2-8.

The game is due to throw in at 5.30pm in Croke Park after the final of the Tailteann Cup which sees Cavan come up against Westmeath in this first year of the competition.

The bookies, like many neutrals, are struggling to separate the sides, but Derry are currently the slightest of favourites. Their defensive style of play, allied to huge fitness levels, allows Derry to have most, if not all, of their team play behind the ball and then to counter at pace.

It might not be pretty to watch, but it is quite clearly effective as they have taken down Tyrone, Monaghan, Donegal, and Clare en route to their first semi-final since 2004.

Derry’s main scoring threat throughout the championship has been Shane McGuigan, who scored 1-7 against Clare last time out. Galway captain Seán Kelly, who won his appeal after his red card against Armagh was lifted, will be expected to try to take control of the Slaughtneil man.

Galway’s own defensive structure did brilliantly for the first 70 minutes against Armagh, keeping Rian O’Neill and co relatively quiet on the day. Up until the injury-time capitulation, Armagh’s starting forwards had scoring a combined total of five points from play.

Derry are sure to pepper high ball into the Galway square after seeing just how much the Tribesmen struggled in the quarter-final with all three of Armagh’s goals coming from Galway’s failure to deal with the route one ball.

With Shane Walsh being continually pulled and dragged off the ball, and Damien Comer settling into a somewhat deeper role, there has been a lot more expected from corner forward Rob Finnerty in this year’s championship. And he has duly responded. Five points against Roscommon in the Connacht final and another four against Armagh, the Salthill/Knocknacarra man has delivered. His performances have so far gone under the radar, but his left foot is going to be more important than ever on Saturday evening.

The winning of this game looks likely to come down to how Galway can deal with Derry’s pressure when in front of the goal. Having Walsh, Comer, Conroy, Tierney, McDaid and now Finnerty well capable of putting the ball over from 40+ yards out, it will mean Derry will have to push further and further out the field if the Galway shooting boots are on.

Derry are on a roll this season having picked up only their eighth Ulster SFC title - their first since 1998. But it is a long time since they won their only All Ireland crown, and that was back in 1993.

Despite Galway's superior pedigree in the competition, most are expecting a close match, and excitement is sure to be at peak levels in both of these counties for the week. Both sides will fully believe they can be the ones who win, and it should lead to another exciting day on Jones’ Road.

Galway Minors

After defeating Derry in a thrilling semi-final, the Galway minors now take on Mayo in the minor All-Ireland final tomorrow ( July 7 ) in Dr Hyde Park, Roscommon.

The game throws in at 7.15pm and, for the third time this year, Alan Glynn will set his troops up to try to defeat their western neighbours.

Despite already losing to Mayo twice in this year’s championship, Galway’s fine quarter-final and semi-final performances will mean they will not be afraid of what they are about to face. There will be no pressure on the young Tribesmen as Mayo are hot favourites after winning the Connacht championship and swatting aside with ease everything that has been thrown at them so far.

Glynn has admitted winning their first two group games led to his side taking their foot off the pedal, which resulted in the heavy loss to Mayo and the following disappointing defeat to Leitrim. In the Connacht final, Galway showed they were massively improved and ran Seán Deane’s side much closer.

Mayo have since gone on to defeat Kildare (3-18 to 3-12 ) and Kerry (1-8 to 0-9 ) to reach the decider. Mayo full-forward Ronan Clarke has been their standout performer in those two games, scoring a total of 3-7 in two fine individual outings. Kerry had been in the ascendancy in the semi-final, but a black card and an incredible save from goalkeeper David Dolan turned the game for his team which then took control and never looked like losing.

In Parnell Park, Galway, despite only winning by a single score, dominated Derry for the first 50 minutes, and could very easily have been further ahead. Howevr, six points on the trot brought the Northern side right back into the game.

Glynn will have been delighted with his side’s solidity at the back to hold out for the win. Colm Costello and Eanna Monaghan produced outstanding displays, combining to score 1-8 of their side's 2-9. Shay McGlinchey, in midfield for Galway, received a black card in the first half for an innocuous challenge that ended in the Derry player being tripped. But instead of retreating into their shells, Galway scored a goal right at the start of the second half from Costello, who cut inside the defender and buried the ball past the Derry keeper.

Galway will certainly have their backs to the wall on Friday evening in Roscommon, but Alan Glynn will certainly be telling his players that in football, and especially at this age grade, anything is possible.

 

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