Connacht SFC: Galway cruise to emphatic victory

Connacht Senior Football Championship

Galway 5-21 London 0-9

By Billy Coss at McGovern Park, Ruislip

Forty years have passed since Galway last completed a Connacht Senior Football Championship three in-a-row, and what the current team hope is their first step towards matching that feat in 2024 came with a clinical win over London.

The Exiles gave Galway the fight of their lives on their last trip to Ruislip in 2019, but there was never any threat of a repeat scare as Padraic Joyce’s side ran out emphatic 27-point winners.

Championship debuts were handed to Cillian Ó Curraoin and Liam Ó Conghaile, while captain Seán Kelly and Liam Silke both got valuable minutes under their belts.

Galway’s two most seasoned campaigners shone brightest on the day with Johnny Heaney kicking four terrific points from play before being withdrawn and Paul Conroy going the full 70 and capping his superb performance with 1-3.

Conroy’s midfield partner Céin D’Arcy helped himself to 1-2, while sub Tomo Culhane bagged a pair of quickfire goals before injury forced him to depart as Galway finished with 14 men having used up their full complement of replacements. Like Heaney, Rob Finnerty and Ó Curraoin were also on the scoresheet four times.

It was 0-7 to 0-3 in Galway’s favour after 22 minutes with London’s points coming from Daniel Clarke, Shay Rafter and Liam Gallagher (free). The winners put the hammer down from there to half-time, adding a further 1-8 without reply to move out of sight after playing with the aid of a significant wind.

Heaney was the standout player in the half and it was a measure of Galway’s front foot dominance that their half-back line trio of Dylan McHugh, John Daly and Liam Silke all scored before the break.

Nine different players chipped in for Galway’s 1-15 to 0-3 interval lead and their opening goal in the 32nd minute was set in train by a Seán Kelly interception and finished off by Cathal Sweeney.

It continued to be one-way traffic for much of the second half and though London stemmed the bleeding a little after the restart, the Tribesmen soon piled on the goals with four arriving in a blistering six-minute spell through Culhane (two), Conroy and D’Arcy.

To London’s credit, they stuck at it and kicked four of the game’s closing points with Gallagher (two frees), Ciarán Diver and Ruairí Rafferty all on target.

Galway move on to a provincial semi-final against Sligo or Leitrim in a fortnight, while London turn their focus to the Tailteann Cup.

Scorers for Galway: Tomo Culhane 2-0, Paul Conroy 1-3, Céin D’Arcy 1-2, Cathal Sweeney 1-1, Johnnny Heaney, Cillian Ó Curraoin (3fs) and Rob Finnerty (1m, 1f) 0-4 each, Dylan McHugh, John Daly and Liam Silke 0-1 each.

Scorers for London: Liam Gallagher 0-3 (3fs), Daniel Clarke and Shay Rafter 0-2 each, Ciarán Diver and Ruairí Rafferty 0-1 each.

Galway: Connor Gleeson; Jack Glynn, Seán Fitzgerald, Johnny McGrath; Dylan McHugh, John Daly, Liam Silke; Paul Conroy, Céin D’Arcy; Johnny Heaney, Seán Kelly (captain), Cathal Sweeney,; Robert Finnerty, Cillian Ó Curraoin, Liam Ó Conghaile.

Subs: Daniel O’Flaherty for Sweeney (HT), Tomo Culhane (2-0) for Ó Curraoin (47), Kieran Molloy for Heaney (47), Seán Mulkerrin for Silke (47), Eoghan Kelly for Seán Kelly (54).

London: Michael Lynch; Daire Rooney, Matt Moynihan, Fiontán Eastwood; Oran Kerr, Eoin Walsh (captain), Tighe Barry; Liam Gallagher, Stephen Dornan; DJ O’Flaherty, Daniel Clarke, Ciaran Diver; Joshua Obahor, Shay Rafter, Nathan McElwaine.

Subs: Michael Miller for McElwaine (18), Patrick Dolan for Eastwood (HT), Gareth McDowell for Barry (47), Ruairí Rafferty for Dornan (51), Michael Carroll for Kerr (57).

Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo).