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5 talking points from Galway v Cork - All Ireland U21 football final

Galway’s key midfield experience, further agony for this group of Cork players and what effects will the game have at senior level.

Cork's Dan McEoin and Galway's Mark Loughnane.
Cork's Dan McEoin and Galway's Mark Loughnane.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Galway lifted the All-Ireland U21 football title for the second time in three years with a 1-14 to 1-11 win over Cork last night.

Here’s five talking points from a clash that was witnessed by 4,324 spectators at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.


1. Galway deserve the title of champions

They may not have scored for the last 18 minutes of the game but Galway packed enough into the previous 42 minutes of action to be fitting victors for the second time in three years.

Their tactics were exemplary, they controlled midfield, sparkled in attack and adjusted to the high-pressure occasion quicker than Cork.

But it was not just for last night’s display, that they merited the status of champions. Previously they had thrashed Sligo, showed grit to overcome Mayo, held their nerve to beat a Roscommon team that have dominated the Connacht minor and U21 landscape in recent years and then ousted a highly-rated and physical Kildare combination.

Defeating Cork who have controlled Munster U21 football in recent years rounded off their campaign in an appropriate fashion.

“When you win two out of three it’s a pretty good return,” said manager Alan Flynn. “There’s four guys out of our 33 that have medals from the previous time. 19 of the 33 are underage next year and that’ll be another challenge for them again.”

2. Midfield experience proves key

All-Ireland U21 finals are landmark occasions in the careers of developing players and settling to the tempo of the game is a tricky business. It helps if you’ve been there before though. Galway’s midfield duo of captain Fiontan O Curraoin and Thomas Flynn were both survivors from the county’s 2011 triumph.

That level of experience showed as they ruled the midfield area. O Curraoin was supreme in the aerial stakes and his decision-making on the ball was also excellent during that tense closing quarter.

Flynn put in a great shift alongside him and the return of the Athenry man from injury has been a key factor in Galway’s campaign. Together they established a platform for their team and never allowed Sean Kiely and Ian Maguire to gain a foothold.

“My mum had a collage up in the house of the team two years ago and I took it down at the start of the year, just to focus on this year,” revealed O Curraoin. “It was a new team with a new identity so I wanted to keep the head down and drive on for the lads.

“I was actually talking to Michael Meehan two weeks ago and he has two (All-Irelands) as well so its nice to join a fella like him.”

Galway captain Fiontán O Curraoin.
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

3. Familiar feeling of defeat for Cork

For seven of the Cork players that will be leaving the U21 grade after last night’s game, this defeat was a further twist of the knife. Damien Cahalane, Alan Cronin, Tom Clancy, Jamie Wall, John O’Rourke, Brian Hurley and Kevin Hallissey have been members of the county U21 squad for the last three years.

But despite the fine feat of collecting three provincial medals, their efforts to add a national one to that collection have been thwarted by two All-Ireland semi-final defeats in 2011 to Galway and 2012 to Dublin, and last night’s All-Ireland final loss. In addition they suffered the disappointment of an All-Ireland final reversal to Tyrone in 2010.


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The latest defeat was a wounding experience as Cork’s slow start proved prohibitive to their chances of victory and despite an admirable second-half fightback they fell short.

“I think we brought it down to three and if we could have brought it to two it might have put doubts in their mind but they broke up the field and in the end were deserving of their victory,” reflected Cork boss John Cleary.

Cork’s TJ Brosnan and Alan Cronin.
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

4. The quality of the score taking

It was an overcast night in Limerick and rain began to tumble down in the second-half yet a wet ball and greasy surface did not impede the efforts of players on both sides to land scores. And some of those efforts were quite magnificent.

Cathal Mulryan set the ball rolling in the first-half for Galway with his point-taking while Adrian Varley also notched a beauty but with four stunning points from play, Ian Burke was the standout Tribesmen player in front of goal. Damien Comer’s second-half goal was an assured and emphatic finished as well.

Cork did not score from play in the first 20 minutes of the game yet their twin threats in front of goal started to impact as the match progressed. Dan McEoin lofted over some fine points while Brian Hurley caused havoc for the Galway defence as he shot over some lovely points and unleashed a terrific second-half shot to the net.

“It’s knowing when to get between that fine line of knowing when to shoot and not shooting from stupid angles and stupid positions,” said Galway boss Flynn. “In fairness to the lads, you will notice they are always ending up in positions where an opportunity is on.”

5. The effects for senior setups

The timing of the U21 football championship with it’s May Bank Holiday conclusion, lends itself perfectly to a tee-up for the summer senior fare. Galway face Mayo in the Connacht championship in a fortnight while Cork are in action a week later against Limerick in Munster. But as Alan Mulholland and Conor Counihan plot their seasons, can they benefit from their U21 sides progressions?

For Galway, O Curraoin nailed down his credentials for a starting midfield berth and Flynn must surely come into the reckoning as well for a spot somewhere in the middle third.

Galway’s Thomas Flynn.
Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

Attacker Shane Walsh has done enough in this campaign to hint that he is physically able for the step up and is the kind of unpredictable wildcard that Galway could benefit from pitching in from the start. For the future James Shaughnessy, Daithi Burke – who is also coveted by county hurling teams – Cathal Mulryan and Ian Burke are bright prospects.

For Cork the quartet of Cahalane, Clancy, O’Rourke and Hurley are all currently part of the senior setup. On last night’s evidence Hurley looks best placed as he was in electric form and the absence of the injured Colm O’Neill does create a vacancy in the Cork full-forward line. He is a live option while the high work ethic O’Rourke showed last night means he is also a valuable commodity.

Galway crowned All Ireland U21 champions against Cork

As it happened: Galway v Cork – All Ireland U21 football final

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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