I’m very happy to welcome back onto the guest slot soapbox FourGoal McGee who provides an alternative view on who we should be shouting for at this weekend’s U21 All-Ireland final.
There was a bit of a spat going on over on GAA Board the other day between a few Mayo and Galway supporters. It was started by a Mayo supporter ribbing the Galway people because their manager had called for Galway people to support their U21s in the All Ireland Final on Sunday next. Unfortunately, those involved appeared to be only interested in having a somewhat pointless slagging match rather than examining the importance of the upcoming match. And indeed it is an interesting one.
Cavan – once a powerhouse of Gaelic football – haven’t appeared in a final (at underage or senior) for as long as I can remember whereas Galway are often there or thereabouts at various grades. Cavan beat an unfancied Wexford team to get there, whereas Galway beat a Cork team that had shot Kerry’s lights out a few weeks ago. But predicting results in underage football is never straightforward. The bookies have Galway at 8/13 to win but Cavan have had solid wins against Fermanagh, Donegal and Tyrone. But why, I hear you ask, should a Mayoman be interested in this match?
The answer is simple. We always measure ourselves against our greatest rivals and no county better meets that description for a Mayo than Galway. So we look in interest (and with a little bit of envy) at them when they go further in any competition than us. And I’m sure that they have the same feelings about us. But there is another reason and it has been expressed by others on this forum in the past. It is in our interest that Connaught football is strong so that we can measure our true chances of success beyond the province. When this strength is there, any team coming out of Connaught is a force to be taken seriously. Which is why I would have liked to see Galway survive Division 1 and to see Sligo consolidate a place in Division 2, rather than see both of them demoted. Granted, Roscommon got promoted, and any such achievement – even from the lowest division – is good for the province.
However, the true strength of football in the province is not evident in our respective senior teams. Connaught has been peppered with good minor teams in the last five years but this has not led to All Ireland success at U21 (our win in 2006 was not a product of these teams). However, the work that James Horan has done in unearthing young players has shown us that new young blood is available in our county. Fergal O’Donnell is beginning to bring them to the fore in Roscommon. What the footballing powers in Galway must accept is that such young blood is available to them too.
On Sunday, we will see if Galway can bring these young players through to the next level. If they do, it will continue to make Connaught more competitive and raise the bar for James Horan’s young charges as they look to the potential for future glory. And for that reason, despite holding lifelong Mayo citizenship, I will be hoping for a Galway victory.
Keep the Faith!