The minors had a surprisingly easy win over Galway in the sun at Markievicz Park earlier this afternoon, coming out on top by 2-13 to 1-7. I wasn’t in Sligo today to see our latest crop of U18s make their championship bow (the football I went to see was played at Croke Park, more on which anon) but Colm Gannon from the Mayo Advertiser was and here’s his hot-off-the-press match report.
Colm’s account of proceedings tallies pretty much spot-on with what the lads on Midwest were saying in the live commentary. We were well on top with the wind behind us in the first half but only went in at the break three points to the good, having shot nine wides. They quickly atoned for this profligacy early in the second half, though, with a goal from Cillian O’Connor accompanied by a side order of a few points putting them into a commanding 1-10 to 0-5 lead. The match was as good as over by then and, only for a goal scored against the run of play by Ronan Steede with ten minutes to go, it would probably have fizzled out tamely. As it was, that Galway three-pointer, which cut the deficit to six points, had the effect of getting our lads going again and sub John Carney bagged our second goal five minutes from the end.
From what the lads on Midwest were saying, this bunch of minors could keep us entertained for a while over the summer. They’re captained by Aidan Walsh who was lamping over long-range frees and 45s today like, well, like he did with such aplomb all through last summer. Billy Fitz reckons they’re a better team than last year’s version but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how they get on from here to judge the validity of that particular claim.
Next up for them is, of course, the Connacht final which will be the undercard to the senior decider at Pearse Stadium on July 19th. They’ll face Roscommon in that one, a Roscommon team no doubt keen to show that the performance their seniors put on last weekend isn’t a fair reflection of the state of football within the county. Our lads will have plenty of support in Pearse Stadium providing, of course, we all make it our business to get there in time to give them the support they deserve.
It’s worth noting that, win or lose in the Connacht final, the minors are now guaranteed to advance to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage. It’s still worth winning on July 19th, of course, as this would mean a quarter-final against a defeated finalist from one of the other provinces rather than a provincial champion. It’s likely enough, then, that the minors will still be plying their trade in August and, if Billy Fitz is correct, they could still be there in September too.
I don’t expect Galway’s seniors to be togged out come September. They were piss-poor today against Sligo and were damn lucky to escape with a largely unmerited four-point win. With a little over twenty minutes gone in this match, it looked as if they’d win pulling up as they had, albeit in a fairly lackadaisical manner, built up a six-point cushion on the Magpies. But they then decided it was time for forty winks and so instead of going in at half-time with the match as good as won, they were only two up and the whiff of an upset was decidedly in the air.
The shock result should have happened too, as Galway began to disintegrate visibly as the second half went on. When Sligo’s Neil Ewing got the line, Galway had the ideal opportunity to reclaim control of proceedings but instead their midfielder Gary O’Donnell got a straight red soon after for a truly bone-headed punch into the guts of a prone Sligoman. That’s him out of the final, by the looks of it.
Sligo will be kicking themselves tonight when they realise how many chances they missed in the closing stages to really put it up to Galway. Although they drew level more than once, they never got their noses in front and were made to pay at the death when Joe Bergin landed a high-quality point and then Sean Armstrong finished them off with an injury time goal.
I see the bookies now have us at evens for July 19th. I reckon we’ll go into this one confident enough that we’re now packing sufficient firepower to do them some real damage but that, I guess, is one for another day. For now, it’s enough for us to be reasonably content about Galway’s shite display today, which leaves us with plenty of time to dream all those nice dreams about what we’ll inflict on those maroon geansais the next day.
But Galway’s display in Markievicz Park wasn’t the worst performance by a team in maroon today. Not by a long way – poor old Westmeath were utterly annihilated by Dublin at Croke Park this afternoon. We behaved like real Dubs supporters today, only taking our seats in the Lower Davin when the game was ten minutes or so old and by then the Dubs were already three ahead and really starting to motor.
Dublin’s shooting in the first half today was as good as it was poor the last day against Meath and by half-time they were already out of sight. And then, just to show that this is no longer Pillar’s Dubs, they didn’t switch off in the second half but instead kept pummelling the hapless Lakesiders. I’d felt sorry for Roscommon last weekend and, although my little Dubs thought it was great crack altogether, I felt the same today for poor old Westmeath (even if the hoors did beat us in the qualifiers all those years ago). The little lad was still enthusing about the outcome when we got back home, though he was careful to inform Mrs WJ that “it would be even gooder if it was the Kerrymen”. That’s my boy …