Naomh Anna, Leitir Mór, did their very best on Sunday afternoon at Pearse Park in Longford to try to reach the final of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship, but it was not to be. They have punched above their weight for most of the season on the road to county and provincial success, but last weekend they came up against a team that was just too good for them. There is no shame in that. And to their credit, they fought like real troopers right to the final whistle as they have done all season.
Cookstown had big name stars like Owen Mulligan, Raymond Mulgrew, and former Tyrone star Paul McCurk in their ranks and that quality told. The Tyrone champions lead by 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and also raced into an eight point lead in the third quarter. To Naomh Anna’s immense credit they displayed tremendous application and attitude, they fought back with some fine scores from Patrick Mark Ó Fatharta and came back to within two points of the Tyrone men. However a minute from time Cookstown quashed any thoughts of a fairytale victory for the Connemara lads when Raymond Mulgrew released a Cookstown substitute who blasted past a helpless Eoin Ó Conghaile to put the Tyrone men into the final against Spa from Kerry at Croke Park next month. After the game, their team manager Ciarán Fatharta spoke of his huge pride in his panel and thanked the support the team has got all year from the local neighbourhood and the wider football community and from local clubs all around Connemara.
Leitir Mór will now have to concentrate on making an impact in the senior ranks in Galway football in 2010 and compete in Division 1B of the senior league where there are some good teams. They have spent a long time getting back to the senior ranks and they need to make sure they build on last year’s successes and find their feet quickly. With a central spine of Eoin Ó Conghaile, Ciarán Bairéad, Toto Ó Griofa, Cristóir Ó Flatharta, and the two Breathnachs they should be able to compete and survive in the senior ranks. There was no joy for Galway supporters in the All-Ireland hurling Intermediate semi-final last Saturday either, when Tynagh/Abbey Duniry went down by two points to St Gall’s (Antrim ) on a score-line of 0-12 to 0-10. Tynagh were a bit flat in the first half, and as manager Mattie Kenny pointed out after the game his side “lacked some of the power and conditioning of the St Gall’s men”. His side, he admitted, needed to work on that side of things over the next year or two if they are to build on this year’s success.
Galway go for three out of three
Galway maintained their impressive start to the new season with a comfortable 2-9 to 0-5 victory over Leitrim in Ballinamore. The highlight of the first half was a fine goal by Nicky Joyce which gave his team a well deserved 1-4 to 0-2 lead. Joe Bergin and Owen Concannon popped over a few points in the second half to keep the scoreboard ticking over, and Barna’s Paddy Kennedy put the result beyond doubt with a marvellous goal seven minutes from time. Joe Bergin was a handful for Leitrim lining out at full-forward and Nicky Joyce hit 1-6 to continue his early season good form.
Killererin’s Tomás Fahy also caught the eye at wing-back and Jamie Murphy and Donal O’ Neill got some more game time in the two corner back positions.
Up in Charlestown, Galway’s Adrian Faherty earned Sligo Institute of Technology a draw with Mayo at 1-11 each, and Claregalway’s and Galway senior panellist in 2009 Danny Cummins hit 0-2 from corner forward for the Sligo students. IT Sligo looked to be in a strong position when they overturned a 0-4 to 0-6 half-time deficit to take the lead early in the second half, but were then rocked back on their heels when Aidan O'Shea netted for John O'Mahony's side.
Roscommon had a 0-7 to 0-6 win over NUIG at Dangan in a game that saw Galway senior player Gareth Bradshaw harshly sent off for picking up two yellow cards and his fellow county player Seán Armstrong kick five of NUIG’s six points.
Meanwhile, a stoppage time pointed free from substitute Colm McGee earned Kevin Walsh's Sligo a 0-13 to 1-10 draw with GMIT at Quigabar. The students looked set for victory when Galway star Paul Conroy's goal helped them to a 1-10 to 0-12 lead, but Sligo fought back to earn a share of the spoils. Joe Kernan’s men will secure their place in the FBD final in late February with a victory or even up to a seven point defeat against GMIT next Sunday in Moycullen at 2pm. A victory next Sunday would be a nice way for the new panel to round off their three January games before they face Mayo in Castlebar in the first round of the National Football League.