Of the four championship games that I saw last weekend the best game by far with the best standard of football and fitness from both teams was Tuam Stars against Micheal Beathnach’s.
It was a top quality championship tie, full of hard running, tight marking and some magnificent scores from both sets of forward lines.
Na Breathnaigh lost the game in the first half when they lost their way and let themselves get marooned 1-09 to 0-3. They did kick over two late points in that half, however the damage had been done at that stage.
They had left themselves too much to do and only for the red card shown to Tuam captain and centre-back Tony Costello, it is unlikely that they would have gotten to within two points of the Stars.
Tuam played some sizzling football in that first thirty minutes with some fantastic point taking from the likes of Shane Curtin who kicked two sublime points with either foot, Paul Kavanagh who is a real speed merchant, county minor John Ross Bodkin (3 ) and a well worked and finished goal by their mobile and creative number eleven Conor Doherty.
Alan Flynn and his management team have to take an awful lot of credit too for the tremendous physical condition the team is in. They were out of the blocks like greyhounds and their work-rate both on and off the ball was top quality.
A major problem for Micheal Breathnach’s was their over-reliance on Peadar O’ Cionnaith for their scores. The full-forward did not disappoint and he was their best forward, although Donal O’ Curraoin also kicked in with some fine scores in the second half.
The loss of their regular fullback Oisin O’ Ceallaigh with a serious knee injury sustained while training with the county squad was another mortal wound and their full-back line always struggled with Kavanagh’s pace and the efficiency of full-forward Darren Kelly who notched two important scores.
At midfield for Tuam Gary O’ Donnell saw a lot of leather, but he needs to improve his ball retention and big Michael Hogan was solid for the entire hour.
Jamie Murphy’s scored two vital points for Tuam:
A key player for them was corner back Jamie Murphy who shot two inspirational points in the second half for his side.
His first was a good score, but his second was a stunner and came at a crucial time for his team.
It stopped the rot as Na Breathnaigh had just shot five points in a row and had come back to within two points (1-11 to 0-12 ), and looked likely to overhaul the North board men. Murphy’s second point gave the Tuam men some respite and when Curtin shot his third it left Tadhg O’ Curraoin’s men needing a goal to survive.
It nearly came after a strong run from Seamus O’ Maoileoin but his powerful effort nestled in the side-netting rather than the back of the excellent Paul Doherty’s net.
Both sides can take immense credit for their respective performances and while Tuam are into the last eight for 2009, if Micheal Breathnach’s continue their formidable progression over the past few years they won’t be far from a county title over the coming few seasons.
They have some very talented players in the likes of Pete Kenny, the O’ Maoileoins, Donal O’ Curraoin, Sean Denvir, Peadar Og O’ Griofa and Barry O’ Conghaile. They are a young side and they should try and stick together and set their ambitions on winning the Frank Fox in the next few years.
As regards this year, nobody will fancy pulling Tuam in the next round and based on their fitness and pace, I have no doubt that they would prefer to play all their championship games in Pearse Stadium.
Based on what I saw from them in this tie and if they can maintain their edge over the next twelve weeks, they are without doubt, serious contenders for their first county title since that soft one Tommy Carton won for them back in 1994 with his wonderful late point.
Their sole survivor from that success Ja Fallon even came on to play a cameo role last Saturday night wearing number 30.
It must be great for the younger players, some who were not ever born, most who were not even toilet trained when he made his debut with Galway in 1991, to be training and playing on the same team as him.
Such things can make all the difference and who is to say that this won’t be Tuam’s year?
Annaghdown make hard
work of beating Bearna
As Joe Bergin proved for Mountbellew against Caherlistrane, it is hard to beat having a county man around the middle.
No more than Bergin, Niall Coleman was the key player for Annaghdown in their extra-time win over a limited but dogged Barna side.
An early Kieran Hanley goal followed by points by Rob Creden and Ray Connelly put Barna in a great early position and their tactic of player former Milltown star Eddie Forde as a sweeper in front of the full-back line seemed to really flummox the Annaghdown players.
They could only manage two points in the entire first half, one a superb effort from Mathias Coleman and another by Niall.
They finally got the bite between their teeth in the second half to shoot six unanswered points to level the game. They should have won the game in normal time but they seemed to fancy the extra twenty minutes of championship training and so didn’t bother tacking on the winning point.
Although to be fair Ray Connelly probably deserved a close in free at the end of normal time that would have won it for Barna.
Referee Gerry Moore did not give it and it was all Annaghdown in extra time with two points each from Frankie Burke and Niall Coleman the nails in the championship exit sign for Barna.
Apart from the Colemans and Frankie Burke, best for Annaghdown were Fergal Doherty, Brian Qualter, Adrian Fitzparick, Wesley Fallon, Anthony Pender and Joey Farragher in the second half.
One thing that amazed me from a Barna perspective is that they brought back on three players, Kieran Hanley, Paul Fitzmaurice and DD Faherty who they had previously been taken off.
If you were a young sub looking at that, you couldn’t have been too impressed