Alan Mulholland’s u-21 squad provided a terrific and well-timed tonic for Galway football with an impressive and comfortable victory over Cavan in Sunday’s All-Ireland final at Croke Park.
For the loyal band of maroon and white supporters who travelled to Dublin, it was terrific to see a Galway team playing such fabulous football on the biggest stage in the country.
Some of the scores, the catching and defending, and support play in the first half was of a tremendously high standard.
Cavan were awestruck by Galway’s second-quarter display when they were outscored by 2-07 to 0-2.
Unfortunately the game from a competitive point of view was an anti-climax. It was over as a contest at half time, with Galway leading 2-10 to 0-5.
Cavan looked a well beaten team, and once Manus Breathnach saved Barry Reilly’s penalty early in the second half, they looked out on their feet. Psychologically, as much as physically.
That of course was not Galway’s problem and was more a reflection of Cavan’s inability to deal with the midfield dominance of Fionntán Ó Curraoin, who was terrific, and Tomás Flynn, the hugely impressive forward play of Mark Hehir, the strong running Michael Boyle, who was heavily involved in setting up both of Galway’s goals, and Claregalway’s Danny Cummins. Cummins is a real live-wire and gave a spectacular display of pace, ball control and point-taking at corner forward. He shot 0-4 from play and with the right supply looked a player who would trouble any corner back in the country in the vast arena that is Croke Park.
Galway’s strong defence
Team captain Colin Forde was terrific at full-back. The Killererin man appears unflappable and protected the area in front of Manus Breathnach with aplomb.
Gary Sweeney mopped up well and his pace meant Jack Brady did not have anything like the influence he could have expected.
Joss Moore has improved consistently as the u-21 season has progressed and he settled Galway with two wonderful early points. His first effort was a real gem and set the tone for Galway’s day.
Corner back Aonghus Tierney was brought out the field to follow his man and the open spaces of Croke Park suited the Tuam Stars player down to the ground and he linked play very well. Johnny Duane and Tomás Fahy also made important contributions at different stages.
In fact the comprehensive victory was the result of a superb team performance.
All the starting 15 worked hard to play the roles they had been assigned and Cavan had no answer to their unity, their skill level, and their powerful collective will to succeed.
The two first-half goals wrapped up the game for Galway and Patrick Sweeney showed good awareness to punch the first one. The Killanin fans in attendance were particularly delighted that he was the first player to raise a green flag.
Eric Monahan really pinged in his three-pointer after good work by Tomás Fahy who was raiding from wing-back.
Adrian Murphy and Michael Farragher worked hard too on their introduction and it was nice to see as many subs as possible getting a run out on the hallowed ground of Croker.
A rising tide lifts all boats
Last year was a traumatic one for Galway football and with the seniors being relegated to division two this spring, it was wonderful to see a young Galway team going out and winning an All-Ireland with such self-confidence and style.
A rising tide lifts all boats and hopefully with some of these youngsters in their ranks, the seniors will have a right cut at winning a provincial title this summer.
That is for another day.
For now, hope has been renewed and for that we are grateful.
The entire u-21 panel, the management team of Alan Mulholland, Donal Ó Fatharta, Alan Flynn and strength and conditioning coach Neil O’Toole, deserve immense credit for their efforts.
Hopefully with the right management and strategic development, they can be the catalyst of something special for Galway football.
GALWAY: M Breathnach; G Sweeney, C Forde, A Tierney; J Moore (0-2 ), J Duane, T Fahy; F Ó Curraoin, T Flynn; M Boyle (0-2, 0-1 free ), M Hehir (0-7, 0-4 frees ), C Doherty (0-1 ); D Cummins (0-4 ), P Sweeney (1-0 ), E Monaghan (1-0 ). Subs : A Murphy for Sweeney (half-time ), M Farragher for Monahan (47 mins ), B Flaherty for Boyle (57 mins ), C Halloran for Fahy, C Silke for Tierney (both 59 mins ).