1972, 2002, and 2005. These are the three years Galway won the All-Ireland u-21 football title. Hopefully, after this Sunday, the roll of honour in that grade for the maroon and white will include 2011.
In order for that to happen, a genuine sleeping giant of Gaelic football, Cavan, must be put to the sword. And that will not be easy.
This Cavan team is a good one, with some very fine players, including team captain Gearoid McKieran, who lines out at midfield, corner forward Jack Brady, and full-forward Niall McDermott. They play a tough rugged game with lots of bodies behind the ball and then they break at speed when in possession. They only play with two or three forwards up front and a lot of men behind the ball.
If you watched any of the Donegal v Laois division two league final and observed Donegal’s swarm tactics, you will have an idea of how they line out.
Galway were hugely impressive in their victory over Cork, but that is in the past now and they face a completely different test on Sunday.
The game against Cork was exciting end-to-end football with a marvellous flow and dynamism to the game. It was thrilling stuff.
Unfortunately, Sunday is unlikely to produce anything like that style of football. Cavan favour the mass defence that has been profitable for them as they are now on the threshold of their first u-21 title and their first All-Ireland success in adult football since their last senior success in 1952.
Mulholland aware of the challenge
Galway team manager Alan Mulholland is aware of the challenge his side faces on Sunday. With Donál Ó Flatharta and Alan Flynn, he has studied Cavan and their style of play since they defeated Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final.
“They will be very tough to break down, and Sunday will present a new challenge for our guys. However, we know what is ahead of us and we have belief in our team. From Manus [Breathnach] up to the subs who have come in every game, they have individually and collectively been able to play to a high standard and produce performances that have been good enough to win. We are looking to them to do the same thing this weekend.”
Mulholland was the manager of the Galway minor side that won the All-Ireland title in 2007 – beating Derry in the final - and some of those minors from 2007 are starting on Sunday.
Colin Forde is team captain and lines out at full-back, while Tomás Fahy and Conor Doherty also collected winners’ medals four years ago on the field of play.
“Those three lads are experienced - playing with Galway and senior with their clubs over the past few years. Johnny Duane also played in Croke Park with St James this year too so we are really looking forward to Sunday.
“We are focusing on our own performance and what we have to do to win. We expect it to be a dog-fight and a very tough game. It would be fantastic to see Colin Forde collect the trophy and that is our objective.
“We want to try to build on the semi-final display and produce another high quality performance. It would be a shame to come this far and not finish out the job. There are some really top class footballers on our panel and if they play to their ability, as we know they can, we have a great chance. Hopefully it will be a fantastic day for Galway football and there will be plenty of Galway support to cheer the team on.”
No team changes
It is always difficult to change a winning team and Alan Mulholland and his management team have decided not to make any alterations to the starting 15 that defeated Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Despite the significant contribution Adrian Murphy (Kilconly ) made on his introduction to the full-forward line in the Connacht final and also against Cork, he has to be content with a place on the bench. The likes of Murphy, Michael Farragher (Corofin ) and Joe Joe Greaney (Oughterard ) who were also introduced in Ennis are likely to see action at some stage on Sunday.
Noel Henry (Tuam Stars ) and Shane Bohan (Caherlistrane ), who were substitutes in the semi-final, are carrying knocks and their fitness will have to be assessed later in the week.
Galway u-21: Manus Breathnach (An Spidéal ), Gary Sweeney (Mountbellew ), Colin Forde, Cpt, (Killererin ), Aongus Tierney (Tuam Stars ), Joss Moore (Mountbellew ), Johnny Duane (St.James ), Tomás Fahy (Killererin ), Tomás Flynn (Athenry ), Fiontán Ó Curraoin (Micheál Breathnach ), Conor Doherty (Tuam Stars ), Mark Hehir (Milltown ), Michael Boyle (Killererin ), Danny Cummins (Claregalway ), Patrick Sweeney (Killanin ), Eric Monaghan (Caherlistrane ).