Championship football is about finding a way. It is a motto that has served Galway footballers well throughout the past three months.
Wins over Mayo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Armagh, and Derry ensure that most vital ingredient has been generated: momentum. The feel good factor is back in Galway and in these times, following two years of restrictions, there is a sense of maroon and white joy again.
Pádraic Joyce, John Divilly, John Concannon, Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, and Cian O’Neill’s diligent work with Galway is now being reflected on the national stage.
It has been a spell sprinkled with pleasant memories and moments for Galway with one cameo lingering in the mind. After his two splendid goals against Derry when Damien Comer was withdrawn, the roof was nearly lifted off the Cusack, Davin, and Hogan Stands at Croke Park.
Galway people knew that a first All-Ireland final appearance in 21 years was imminent. Comer’s classy and courageous contribution in that match meant so much.
That has been the way throughout Galway’s adventure. At different times players have embraced responsibility. Paul Conroy impressed in Castlebar when the prized Mayo scalp was taken, Johnny Heaney, such a solid contributor, mined a vital goal.
When Leitrim came to Salthill, Galway’s substitutes struck four goals. Patrick Kelly netted two, while Niall Daly and Owen Gallagher also struck majors. Cillian McDaid’s relevance to the Galway cause was also underlined.
Then another outing against Roscommon at Pearse Stadium featured a delicious Shane Walsh goal. A couple of hundred yards from his home, Rob Finnerty clipped five points from play illustrating his skill and style.
A quarter-final encounter with Armagh at GAA headquarters examined Galway’s resilience and resolve. Again, though, Galway were able to do enough. John Daly was instrumental in defence, McDaid nailed scores at crucial times, Matthew Tierney carried a threat.
The penultimate round was reached. Derry settled briskly reeling off three points without reply as Galway failed to score in the first quarter. Perhaps in previous generations Galway might have wilted, but they persevered. Comer was colossal, Dylan McHugh and Kieran Molloy, used to vital occasions with Corofin, delivered.
Ultimately it means Galway are now busy preparing for a clash with the blue bloods of the game, Kerry. Undoubtedly the Kingdom will bring tradition and talent to the famous Jones Road venue.
An absorbing semi-final with Dublin was eventually decided by a mammoth free from the gifted Seán O’Shea. David Clifford, the prolific Fossa forward, was another central figure for Jack O’Connor’s team, who have enjoyed a productive Allianz Football League and Munster Championship campaign.
Kerry haven’t hoisted the Sam Maguire since 2014 which represents a barren spell for a county with such a proud pedigree. The 2019 All-Ireland matches with Dublin provided evidence of Kerry’s development, but the subsequent campaigns culminated in disappointment.
O’Connor, who steered Kerry to the summit in his previous two spells in charge, is back eager to recapture further glory. From January, in the McGrath Cup, it was apparent Kerry were firmly focused on acquiring further silverware, but the tussle for the most craved trophy of the lot occurs this weekend.
With full capacity crowds permitted once more the atmosphere, noise, and occasion will thrill those fortunate enough to secure a ticket. At the start of the year when Galway’s players arrived at the NUI Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome for an FBD opener against Mayo there was a drive and desire to succeed.
In the intervening half dozen months Galway have survived and thrived. For 70 plus more minutes Galway must find a way to survive and thrive.