Galway u-21 footballers, who defeated Roscommon in the Connacht final two weeks ago, face a hotly fancied Cork outfit on Saturday (6.30pm ) in Cusack Park in Ennis.
Alan Mulholland’s side has been impressive thus far, defeating Sligo easily and doing enough to slip past Roscommon without too much hardship. However Saturday evening represents a serious step-up in class and the Tribesmen will have to be at their best to negotiate what is sure to be a very stiff test of skill and character.
John Cleary’s Cork side mangled Kerry in the Munster final, winning 2-24 to 0-8. It was men against boys.
That game was over after 20 minutes as the Kerry defence allowed Ciarán Sheehan, Donal Óg Hodnett, Barry O’Driscoll and centre-forward Mark Collins to waltz through to score at will. A key player for Cork is big midfielder and current all-star Aidan Walsh. The Kanturk man is a catching machine and, if Galway are going to have any chance of victory, his influence must be nullified.
Hopefully Tomás Flynn or Fiontán Ó Curraoin, who are both tall rangy players with good fielding ability, will be able to compete with him in the air and at least ensure there are breaks to be scavenged for by their half-backs and half-forwards. Johnny Duane, Tomás Fahy, Micheál Boyle and Conor Doherty are good foragers and, if the ball hits the deck, they will have to be onto the breaks like terriers. Keeping possession and a regular supply away from the omnipotent Cork full-forward line is crucial.
Alan Mulholland and his management team of Donal Ó Flathárta, Alan Flynn and fitness trainer Neil O’ Toole have decided to stick with the same starting 15 that defeated Sligo and Roscommon.
Adrian Murphy and JJ Greaney, who both came on in the Connacht final, are also likely to see some action and the 2010 Galway u-21 player of the year Michael Farragher is back from injury and may be added to the substitute bench.
Mulholland is philosophical about the challenge his panel face and, having seen the power of Cork first hand in Páirc Uí Rinn in the Munster final, he is fully aware of the threat they pose.
“They are a very big and powerful side and they have some standout players. However from our perspective, the pressure is off to some degree having won the Connacht title which was our primary objective.
“We will be going to Cusack Park on Saturday to give it everything we have and have a right lash at reaching the All-Ireland final. Cork are odds on favourites to win the competition outright, but many favourites don’t collect. It is David vs Golaith in many people’s eyes, but we have some very talented players on our squad and we are going down to produce the absolutely best performance we can. Whether that is good enough to win remains to be seen.”
Mulholland also asks the Galway GAA public to come out in numbers to support his side.
“Ennis is less than 60 minutes down the road now and hopefully the Galway public will travel in numbers to support the team on Saturday evening. The panel has worked very hard over the past few months and deserve our support. The mood is very good in our camp and we are all looking forward to the contest. It won’t be easy, but that would make a win all the more satisfying if we can get one.”
Galway u-21s: M Breathnach (An Spidéal ), G Sweeney (Mountbellew ), C Forde, Cpt, (Killererin ), A Tierney (Tuam Stars ), J Moore (Mountbellew ), J Duane (St.James ), T Fahy (Killererin ), T Flynn (Athenry ), F Ó Curraoin (Micheál Breathnach ), C Doherty (Tuam Stars ), M Hehir (Milltown ), M Boyle (Killererin ), D Cummins (Claregalway ), P Sweeney (Killanin ), E Monaghan (Caherlistrane ).