Mountbellew-Moylough will enter next Sunday’s county senior football final as rank outsiders when they face Corofin in Tuam Stadium (4pm ).
Mountbellew have not been in a county senior final since 1986; Corofin have annexed the Frank Fox Cup on nine separate occasions since then, with their last title being bagged against Cortoon Shamrocks last October.
That big-game experience should be an advantage for Ger Keane’s men next Sunday. However, they have not faced a team this season that are as focused and as ravenous for the battle and silverware as the men who wear the famous black and amber.
Mountbellew have been a genuine revelation in the championship thus far. Even more so because they have struggled all year in the league, lost five of the six games they have played, and are probable candidates to be demoted to “B” by the end of the year.
Nevertheless, when the litmus test for any team has come around, CHAMPIONSHIP, they have improved enormously on their league form.
Former Mountbellew stalwart Cyril Ryan, who won a county medal at midfield beside Val Daly in 1986, is the man at the helm this year and he is very pleased with how his young team have progressed through the 2009 Claregalway Hotel championship.
“We have done well in all our championship games this far and I am pleased with the lads for the progress they have made, but they know that we have it all to do next Sunday.
“We are a very inexperienced team compared to Corofin, and getting to a county final is a whole new scenario for many of our players. How they handle it will be crucial.
“That said, regardless of what happens next Sunday, I am very proud of the way the panel has conducted itself all year. The players have worked really hard and I hope they play to their potential next Sunday. I believe in them and hopefully the day won’t get to them and they show what they can do, and we get a fantastic game.”
Ryan is also fulsome in his praise for Corofin and what that club has achieved in the past two decades.
“They have some fantastic players and they have played in lots of county finals. None of our panel has played in a senior county final with Mountbellew before and we will have to settle well and not be overawed by the occasion. We rode our luck a bit with Caltra, and while we won well in the end, that did not tell the full story of the game. Sunday will be another step up for the lads, and we will have to rise to meet the challenge head on.”
Players who have caught the eye for Mountbellew in the championship include the irrepressible Joe Bergin, the hugely talented Gary Sweeney, team captain Patrick Gardiner, Colm Colleran, Joss Moore, Stephen Boyle, Cathal Kenny, Joseph Meehan, David Neary, and Sean Sweeney.
Bergin has been in fantastic form for his club and his switch to full-forward has paid rich dividends for the team.
First, Bergin provides a mobile and potent target man at the edge of the square and second Cathal Kenny has thrived on the responsibility of moving out around the middle and he has been in tremendous form recently.
Against Caltra, it was Kenny’s accurate passing to Bergin that set up a lot of their scores. Assuming that Bergin is picked up by his county colleague Kieran Fitzgerald, their tussle should be one of the key duels of the game.
Mike Comer a huge loss for Corofin
Corofin will have to face Mountbellew on Sunday without the influential Michael Comer who scored 1-02 from play in their semi-final win over Salthill.
Unfortunately Comer tore his cruciate ligament, again, in the Kilmacud Sevens on All-Ireland final weekend and faces surgery on the same knee to get back to any kind of competitive sport.
Team manager Ger Keane was massively disappointed with this recent set-back to one of his best and most likable players.
“It is a terrible blow personally for Mike and also for our chances on Sunday. We have struggled at centre-forward in the past and just when we felt we had found the answer to our problems there, Michael’s knee went again. It is dreadful news for Michael and for the club.
“On the positive side, we are fortunate in that we have players of the calibre of David Hanley, Justin Burke, Shane Monaghan, Michael Lundy, and Trevor Burke to come into the forwards and play a major role for us on Sunday.”
Keane who was a selector in last year’s success knows his side faces a tough challenge to retain the county title.
“We are taking nothing for granted and we have huge respect for Mountbellew. They have some very fine players and they have a nice balance to their team. Against Caltra eight different players scored and we will have to be at our very best to beat them. Mountbellew has always been a very difficult team to defeat and we are on red alert for the challenge we face.
“As long as I have been involved with Corofin we have always had close games with them. And I don’t expect next Sunday to be any different.”
*There is deferred showing of the Galway county final on TG4 on Sunday evening