Mountbellew-Moylough will enter next Sunday’s Galway county senior football final as rank outsiders with many pundits when they face Corofin in Tuam stadium at 4pm, with deferred showing on TG4 at 5pm.
Mountbellew, whose most famous player was All-Star Val Daly, have not been in a county senior final since back in 1986, when Daly was captain, whereas Corofin have won the Frank Fox cup on nine separate occasions since then.
That big game experience should be an advantage next Sunday.
However they have not faced a team this season that are as focused and ravenous for the battle and silverware as the men who wear the famous black and amber.
Mountbellew have been a revelation in the Galway championship thus far and they will come to Tuam on Sunday with no doubts in their minds. They want to win the county cup and they want to do it this year.
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 Claregalway hotel senior championship.
“We have done very well in all our championship games so far and I am pleased with the lads for the progress they have made, however 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. If they handle the pressure of the day, I think we won’t be too far away”.
Players who have caught the eye for Mountbellew in the championship include the irrepressible Joe Bergin, the hugely talented Gary Sweeney who was a county minor this year, 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 usual switch to full-forward has paid rich dividends for the team.
Firstly, Bergin provides a mobile and potent target man at the edge of the square, and secondly Cathal Kenny has thrived on the responsibility of moving out around the middle and he has been in tremendous form recently.
Against Caltra in the county semi-final, 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.
Corofin will have to face Mountbellew on Sunday without the influential Galway player Michael Comer who tore his cruciate ligament for the second time in 12 months at the Kilmacud Sevens on All-Ireland final weekend. He faces surgery on the same knee to get back to any kind of competitive sport.
Corofin manager Ger Keane knows his side face 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 have 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”.
Ó Domhnaill and Naughton are Joe Kernan's selectors:
Carraroe’s Seán Ó Domhnaill and Annaghdown's Tom Naughton will be announced tonight as part of Joe Kernan's backroom team at a meeting of the Galway county board.
Ó Domhnaill won All-Ireland medals with Galway in 1998 and 2001 is no stranger to the GAA spot-light, he is a regular contributor on TG4, as an analyst on Seó Spóirt, GAA Beo, and Underdogs.
Naughton is also a former Galway player who won an all-star in 1974 and collected All-Ireland medals at minor and u-21 level in the early 1970s.
Naughton’s home club is Annaghdown and he played a key part in Caltra's All-Ireland club success, as he had a lot of work done with that panel in the year preceding their victory.