EirGrid Connacht U20: Impressive Galway advance

EirGrid Connacht U20 Football Championship Semi-Final

Galway 0-23 Sligo 1-12

By Kevin Egan at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park

The sun came out for the final set of round robin games in the Eirgrid Connacht U-20FC, but Galway were idle at that stage, having already secured their place in the knockout stages with five points from their first four games.

Tonight Derek Savage’s side had their first outing in Summer conditions in Castlebar and the young Tribesmen absolutely thrived, dominating the opening quarter to build up what ultimately proved to be an insurmountable lead.

Galway’s football in the first 18 minutes was nothing short of sublime. Twelve points were fired over Ethan Carden’s crossbar, and the only wide was a spilled ball from a tackle – every attempt at the posts resulted in the umpire reaching for the flag.

Shay McGlinchey continued to mark himself out as one of the brightest young prospects in the province with an outstanding all-round display and he had two early points on the board, both highlight reel material.

However, the real evidence that Galway could do no wrong was corner forward Jack Mullin, who stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Ronan Colleran and duly terrorised the Sligo full back line, plundering four points from play in the opening half, including an eye-of-a-needle effort that he squeezed through from an impossible angle on the left wing.

At 0-12 to 0-1 with the 20 minute mark looming, it looked catastrophic for last year’s All-Ireland finalists. Galway were dominating the Sligo kickout, while Ross Coen got on the scoresheet with an elegant finish, but the ease with which he sauntered through to get an unchallenged shot away made for dreadful viewing for Sligo supporters.

Then, in 10 ten minutes before half-time, there was a flicker of hope. Defensively they got to grips with things a bit more, and after one goal effort from Rian O’Callaghan was blocked out for a 45, their next attempt saw Robert O’Kelly Lynch drive down through the heart of the defence and set up Connor Flynn for a goal, reducing the half-time deficit to eight points (0-13 to 1-2).

Sligo needed to keep that momentum up into the second half, but Galway’s ongoing ability to win ball from long restarts ensured that they kept the scoreboard moving throughout an enjoyable but ultimately uncompetitive half of football.

Eamon McGrath’s kickouts were impeccable – the Claregalway man further demonstrated his dead ball ability with two excellent pointed frees – and when he didn’t have McGlinchey or his club colleague Jack Lonergan as his primary target, Ciarán Mulhern had a productive outing as a third receiver, dropping into pockets of space from centre forward.

Luke Marren kicked some nice points for Sligo while Eli Rooney made a strong impression off the bench, with Rossa Sloyan and Conor Sheridan also kicking points that demonstrated the quality that there is in this Sligo group, but Galway never went too long without scoring themselves and they always had at least six points to spare as they set up a provincial final tilt against Roscommon on Saturday week.

Scorers for Galway: Jack Mullin 0-4, Colm Costello 0-4 (2fs), Matthew Thompson 0-3 (1f), Shay McGlinchey 0-2, Ciarán Mulhern 0-2, Cian Murphy 0-2, Eamon McGrath 0-2 (2fs), Ross Coen 0-1, Mark Mannion 0-1, Jack Lonergan 0-1, Fionn Mac Donnacha 0-1 (m).

Scorers for Sligo: Luke Marren 0-5 (3fs), Connor Flynn 1-0, Eli Rooney 0-3 (1f), Rossa Sloyan 0-1, Ronan Niland 0-1, Conor Sheridan 0-1, Robert O’Kelly Lynch 0-1.

Galway: Eamon McGrath; Shane Canavan, Darragh Costello, Brian Noone; Jack Folan, Ross Coen, Mark Mannion; Shay McGlinchey, Jack Lonergan; Matthew Thompson, Cian Murphy, Conor Heneghan; Jack Mullin, Ciarán Mulhern, Colm Costello.

Subs: Fionn Mac Donnacha for Mullin (44), Daithi Kilcommins for Heneghan (51), Luc O’Connor for Folan (53), Pádraic Godwin for Mannion (53), Cormac Greaney for Coen (58).

Sligo: Ethan Carden; Ronan O’Hehir, Conor Johnston, Tommy Ross; Rian O’Callaghan, Dylan McLoughlin, Rossa Sloyan; Ross Doherty, Conor Sheridan; Robert O’Kelly Lynch, Ronan Niland, Conor Walsh; Luke Marren, James Donlon, Conor Flynn.

Subs: Dillon Walsh for O’Callaghan (HT), Eli Rooney for Donlon (37), Mark McDaniel for Flynn (39), Eoin Barrett for Johnston (45), Oran Harte for Ross (49).

Referee: Michael McGirl (Leitrim).