We’re not due to leave the hot weather behind us till Saturday night (and, hence, the photo here is a bit previous – I actually took it on the way out and it’ll be dark when we’re flying back) but tomorrow’s going to be full of the last this, the last that and the last the other so I may as well sign off from the sun now. The next you’ll hear from me will, most likely, be after the match has been played on Sunday.
Before then, a few things – first the Galway team that was announced this evening. Here, courtesy of Galway GAA, it is:
Galway (CSFC v Mayo): Paul Doherty; Garreth Bradshaw, Finian Hanley, Damien Burke; Niall Coyne, Diarmuid Blake, Gary Sice; Barry Cullinane, Niall Coleman; Cormac Bane, Padraig Joyce, Nicky Joyce; Matthew Clancy, Michael Meehan, Fiachra Breathnach.
As was rumoured in advance, the fit-again Kieran Fitzgerald has failed to dislodge Garreth Bradshaw at corner-back, Barry Cullinane is restored to midfield instead of Mark Lydon and doe-eyed Nicky Joyce (the man who always looks as if he’s just left his bed, though not, it must be admitted, when he shoots at goal) replaces Paul Conroy in the half-forwards.
No more than ourselves, Liam Sammon is going with an experienced fifteen for the final and so the thirty players who’ll take the field on Sunday won’t need to spend all that long introducing themselves to each other. Well, this is Mayo v Galway in the Connacht final, I suppose.
In terms of how I think it’ll go, I think we may have a slight edge, given that it’s Castlebar and all that (even if I don’t subscribe to the they-beat-us-in-the-league-this-year-and-it’s-our-turn-to-beat-them-in-the-championship bullshit), though this could mean that the Tuam crowd might actually deign to turn up to shout for the Herrin Chokers (which they’re obviously not minded to do in Salthill, given recent attendance figures there).
I’m always nervous of Connacht finals against Galway – thus betraying those formative defeats to them I witnessed back in the Eighties – and this one is no different. All of their forwards are capable of doing serious damage to us and the threat they pose is a very different one compared to Sligo (how the fuck did they lose to Sligo last year with those kind of forwards?) which means that our backs will need to perform better than they’ve done all year to keep those lads in check.
If we do win, it’ll be because – as we did in 2006 – we obliterate them at midfield. They’ve picked two tough nuts in the middle and while I’d be worried about Ronan – who’ll never be Mr Physicality and who was overly ponderous in his distribution against Sligo – I’d’ve more faith in Tom Parsons to be able to hold his own in this area. Eamon O’Hara tried to mix it with the Charlestown tyro early on the last day and didn’t get too far and while both Cullinane and Coleman are a pair of abrasive customers, once David Heaney and Pat Harte stick around that sector, we should have enough to match them in the physical stakes.
If Galway take hold of midfield – as they did early on in Salthill last year, where Bergin won every ball in the first fifteen minutes – they’ll kill us. I think we need to win midfield fairly decisively on Sunday to be confident that we’ll do it, as our front six don’t, on paper, look as sharp as their forward unit. Alan Dillon’s return is therefore a welcome one but he’ll need to show the kind of championship form he last showed back in 2006 and will need to make as well as get scores. Sunday is also the defining moment for Austie – a big performance here and his doubters (myself included) will be silenced for a good while. Andy will also, not least because of his failure to get going against Sligo, need to produce the goods and get his name on the scoresheet once or twice. I’d expect to see Killer on shortly after half-time, sooner of things aren’t working out too well.
I could go on but you know most of this already. It’s yet another showdown with Galway, one where, as always, we go in slightly nervous about what might happen but with a fair bit of anticipation too. I’ll probably arrive in a sleep-deprived state, as we’re not due to leave here till ten o’clock on Saturday night. By the way, I hope to fuck that nonsense with the radar at Dublin airport is sorted out by then (though it sounds like it may not be). Saturday night could be a late on but then, if we win, so too could Sunday. Till afterwards.