Mountbellew-Moylough will enter the Galway Senior Football Championship final tomorrow as outsiders with many pundits, when they face reigning champions, Corofin in Tuam Stadium at 4pm.
Mountbellew, whose most famous past players would be the late Enda Colleran, Johnny Hughes and Val Daly, have not even contested a county final since 1986, whereas Corofin have won the county title nine times since then.
To put that difference in recent achievement in context, Aidan Donnellan, Corofin’s midfielder tomorrow is going for his ninth county medal as a starting player; no current Mountbellew player has even been involved in a senior final.
While tomorrow’s panel of players do not know what it is like to face the music in a county final, their manager is a former Mountbellew stalwart who has a county medal in his collection from 23 years ago.
Cyril Ryan played at midfield in his first year at senior beside Val Daly back in 1986, and he is the man that has masterminded the club getting back to an overdue final.
“We have done very well in all our championship games this far and I am pleased with the lads for the progress they have made this year. They know that we have it all to do tomorrow. 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.
“To be honest, regardless of what happens on Sunday, I am very proud of they way the panel has conducted themselves all year. They have worked really hard and I hope they play to their potential. I believe in them and hopefully the day won’t get to them and they show what they can do”.
Ryan is also fulsome in his praise for Corofin and what that club has achieved in the past two decades.
“They have some fantastic players like Alan and Damien Burke, Gary Sice and Kieran Fitzgerald and they have been the benchmark in Galway for the last 20 years. Sunday will be another step up for the lads, and we will have to rise to meet the challenge head on to have any chance. We have a lot of youngsters, but that can be to your advantage.
“When we won in 1986, I was only a kid and we had to beat a Milltown team who had stars like Gay McManus and Tomás Tierney. But when you are young, you have no fear and I had no fear in that final. You don’t really know what to expect, so you just go out and do your best. Simple as that. And that is what I will be asking our lads to do tomorrow. If they are good enough, we will win. If we aren’t, we won’t.”
Mountbellew have reached the final of this championship mainly based on the form of the irrepressible Joe Bergin, who interchanges between full-forward and midfield, the hugely talented Gary Sweeney, who was a county minor this year, team captain Patrick Gardiner, Colm Colleran who had a few run-outs with the Galway seniors in the John O’Mahony era, Cathal Kenny, and regular goalscorer Sean Sweeney.
Assuming that Bergin moves into full-forward, he will be picked up by his county colleague and close personal friend, Kieran Fitzgerald, and their tussle will be one of the key duels of the game.
Corofin face Mountbellew tomorrow without the influential Michael Comer, who scored 1-2 from play in their semi-final win over Salthill.
Comer tore his cruciate ligament, again, in the Kilmacud Sevens on All-Ireland final weekend.
He had torn the ligament less than twelve months ago and the county semi-final was his first competitive start this year.
Corofin manager Ger Keane, while conscious of Comer’s loss, is focusing on the positives.
“We are fortunate in that we have players of the calibre of David Hanley, Justin Burke or Trevor Burke to come into the forwards and play a major role for us on Sunday,” said Keane.
Keane, who was a selector in last year’s success over Cortoon Shamrocks 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 for them 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.”
- Mountbellew-Moylough have won the Galway county final on four occasions: 1964, 65, 74 & 86.
- Corofin have won the title on 12 occasions: 1932, 46, 77, 91, 93, 95, 97, 98, 00, 02, 06 & 08.
- The Artane Band will play and lead the pre-match parade in Tuam Stadium tomorrow.
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