Exciting weekend ahead with a host of crunch football fixtures

The draw for the quarter-finals of the Galway Senior Football Championship took place on Tuesday night after the conclusion of the preliminary quarter-final in Duggan Park.

Tuam Stars defeated Barna after a quick turnaround from their loss to Corofin last Thursday evening. After winning 0-11 to 0-5, Tuam Stars’ reward is a quarter-final against their near neighbours Corofin.

With Tuam having looked the team most likely to be in relegation from group three before the final round of games, not many expected them to progress this far.

A fine win against Mountbellew/Moylough followed up with a convincing win over Barna will have the Stars heading into Sunday’s quarter-final with no fear.

However, Corofin is one of just two teams to have gone through the group stage with a 100 per cent record, and last week welcomed the return of both Martin Farragher and Cathal Silke after injury, two of the club's most experienced players.

For Tuam, Brian Mannion, with another three points on Tuesday evening, is once again starting to hit the form that brought him to the attention of Galway manager Padraic Joyce. These two teams have always produced intense games of football, and nothing less is to be expected in Tuam Stadium late Sunday afternoon.

The first game in Tuam on Sunday afternoon sees Milltown up against Claregalway. Milltown came third in their group, but received the automatic quarter-final spot by being the best third-placed team, while Claregalway topped group three.

For a number of years Claregalway have flattered to deceive at senior level after many successes at underage level, and after losing their opening game to Mountbellew, this looked like it could be another year with little progress. However, three wins on the bounce has them through to a quarter-final which they fully believe they can win.

With Conor Flaherty playing full forward, Claregalway are sure to win their share of route one ball, but the class of Grainger and Danny Cummins is sure to cause damage. Milltown, so far in the championship, have looked strong going forward, but a little light at the back. The two Costellos, Michael Martin and Mark Hehir, have been the main scorers for the Scans. Padriac Godwin has done well in his first year of senior football, but Jack Kirrane has been the focal point of the defence and he will need some protection from his midfield and forwards if they are to defeat the Balchies.

The other two games on Sunday are in Pearse Stadium, and first up is the contest between St James’ and Mountbellew/Moylough. So far in the 2023 championship St James’ have been the surprise package. Having narrowly avoided relegation in 2022, they won four of their five games in group one after many expecting to see them in the relegation dogfight once again.

Having only lost to the reigning champions, the Mervue side is now in bonus territory. With their senior status secure, they can have a right go at Val Daly’s side. In their final group game they ground out a win over a dogged Milltown, and younger players, especially Sam O’Neill, really started to shine. Mountbellew/Moylough, on the other hand, have at times looked disjointed in the group stage. Winning their first two games, they looked home and hosed, but then they were lucky to get a draw against Dunmore MacHales and lost to Tuam in their final game.

Michael Daly has returned to the side this season, but his brother John has taken over the playmaker role with distinction. His range of passing and ability to read the game at such a high level has allowed him to play a part in most of his side's scores from around the middle of the park. Mountbellew/Moylough will be expected to win this game, but the Jimmies will not make it easy for them.

The second game in Pearse Stadium is expected to be the game of the weekend - a rematch of last year's final that Maigh Cuilinn won thanks to a late goal. Salthill/Knocknacarra have not hit the heights of last season so far, but in Tomo Culhane and Robert Finnerty they have two very dangerous forwards who can cause trouble for any backline on their day.

If John Maher is at full fitness in midfield and Salthill’s backs can manage to stifle both Owen Gallagher and Dessie Conneely, this game could be as close as the final of 2022.

Maigh Cuilinn's consistency has been impressive in this year’s championship. Having endured a long season that did not finish until early this calendar year, they have done what needs to be done to win all of their group games. Impressive in their opening two fixtures they eased off a small bit for the rest of the group stage without ever looking likely to lose a game.

After winning their first Connacht title in 2022, Don Connellan’s side will be keen to go one further and give themselves every chance of winning their first Andy Merrigan Trophy. They must first come through a stiff test on Sunday before they can begin to think of even another county title win. The most dangerous thing for this Maigh Cuilinn side is to be thinking too far ahead.

Between senior and intermediate quarter-finals, and senior and intermediate relegation, there is a superb weekend of football in store for the Galway club football fans.

Senior quarter-finals: Sunday St James’ v Mountbellew/Moylough, Pearse Stadium 1.45pm; Claregalway v Milltown, Tuam Stadium 2pm; Maigh Cuilinn v Salthill/Knocknacarra, Pearse Stadium 3.30pm; Corofin v Tuam Stars, Tuam Stadium 4pm.

Senior relegation playoffs: Saturday, Dunmore MacHales v Killannin, Cregg 3pm; Sunday, An Spideal v Caherlistrane, the Prairie 1pm.

 

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