Saturday 29 April 2017

Conneely aiming to extend Sligo's U-21 famine

Conneely has come straight from playing minor last year to make a big impression at U-21 level this season. (stock photo)
Conneely has come straight from playing minor last year to make a big impression at U-21 level this season. (stock photo)

Daragh Small

Promising Galway forward Dessie Conneely believes that having players on board who have won senior provincial medals will give his side the edge against Sligo in Saturday's EirGrid Connacht U-21 FC final.

Conneely has come straight from playing minor last year to make a big impression at U-21 level this season. The 18-year-old Maigh Cuilinn forward scored a goal as Galway knocked reigning All-Ireland champions Mayo out of the semi-final to qualify for the decider at Markievicz Park.

Sligo are looking to create history and win their first provincial title at this grade, having dispatched Roscommon in the semi-final.

While the Yeats County have never won a Connacht U-21 crown, Galway have 18 titles - and Gerry Fahy's side also won All-Irelands as recently as 2011 and 2013.

And with back-to-back Connacht minor titles - they beat Sligo after a replay in 2015 - Conneely, who played in both teams and captained them last year, feels they have a well-balanced squad.

"There is plenty of potential, with lads coming through having won the last two minor titles," said Conneely.

"A lot of the lads who are U-21 for a while have senior experience, and some even have senior Connacht medals, so it has the makings of a very good team here.

"In the big games you need big players to step up, and it's great to have the likes of Michael Daly, Paul Mannion, Rory Greene. . . all of the senior members in the panel who step up for us. So far they have been doing it, and I'm sure they'll keep leading us on."

Galway reached the decider by beating Leitrim and Mayo. Sligo have just one victory behind them, but they were very impressive as they tore Roscommon apart in the second half of their game at Kiltoom last week.

Midfielder and captain Darragh Cummins scored four points from play in that game, but they have danger men all over the field, with senior star Kyle Cawley up front another real threat.

Read more: Fahy delight as Galway knock out champions

But Galway have scored 6-23 in their two games, and Conneely is expected to be to the fore again this weekend.

"Any time Galway play Mayo it is always a big game but now everyone is going to be pumped up for the final," he said.

"After the Leitrim game we knew we had to prove ourselves and play better again. And fair play to everyone, they stepped up on the day and we did enough in the end.

"But Sligo are going to be a good team. We played them in minor two years ago and they brought us to a replay.

"A lot of their players, like us, are really young but there is a lot of them there that are brilliant footballers and we expect a tough challenge on Saturday.

"The history side of it is probably going to help them a bit, they are trying to win their first Connacht title. But that won't affect us.

"We are going out there to win the Connacht final and we will have our own motivation behind us."

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