O Curraoin delight as Galway seal spot in final
GALWAY 2-10 KILDARE 2-5 ALL-IRELAND U-21 SEMI-FINAL
AUSTERITY worked a treat for Galway's young guns as they plundered the maximum return for their investment in attacking play to qualify for the final against Cork.
By contrast, Kildare were like bloated capitalists who carved out gilt-edged opportunity after opportunity only to squander their inheritance as if there was no tomorrow. Their shooting was quite atrocious, and was all the more galling for their fans when you take into account the amount of possession they had, especially in the first half.
At the end of an entertaining contest at O'Connor Park, Tullamore, Galway's 'waste not, want not' attitude in front of the opposition posts deservedly won the day. That, and a seriously productive performance of lion-hearted defending, midfield power and tenacious tackling.
A tally of two goals and 10 points with only five wides throughout the hour's play indicated the efficiency of Galway's performance, while Kildare's horrible 19 wides had manager Kieran McGeeney almost tearing his hair out.
Another layer of scar tissue has thus been grafted on to the Lilywhite mentality of brutal finishing when it's most needed, while in Galway the tidy and efficient football style of this team offers hope for the future.
Team captain Fintan O Curraoin, who along with fellow midfielder Tom Flynn anchored the centre-field for Galway's 2011 All-Ireland U-21 winners, was thrilled to achieve a second appearance in a final at this grade.
"It's great to be back there again. You think they come around easy when you get there after coming straight out of minor, but then the hard reality kicks in, so it's great to be back again," said O Curraoin.
He and Flynn did a big job around the middle of the field, particularly in the first half, and Flynn's display was all the more praiseworthy because of his lack of match practice.
The Athenry club player suffered a knee injury last summer that seriously curtailed his football. He came on as a substitute against Roscommon in the Connacht final and had his first full match for the U-21s on Saturday.
Galway manager Alan Flynn – no relation – said: "In fairness to Tom, we're asking an awful lot of him. He's been out for nine months but if a player like that is ready to play, you really want to get him in there.
"There were times he probably found the going a little bit tough but it's a game that's going to stand to him and I think he can even get better."
Galway plundered two goals, one in each half. The first, after 11 minutes, came from a bad kick-out by Kildare goalie Tom Healy. Flynn grabbed the ball, ran at goal, passed to Damien Comer who moved it on to Shane Walsh, and there was Flynn to get it back and smash it home.
In turn, an error by Galway full-back James Shaughnessy, who gave away possession from a sideline kick, enabled Daniel Flynn to get Kildare's first goal in the 13th minute to level the scores at 1-1 each.
Niall Kelly added a 17th-minute point for the Lilywhites but they went another 13 minutes before Fionn Dowling brought them to their half-time tally of 1-3.
Galway at that stage were at 1-6, with Walsh contributing three points, one from a free. Damien Comer, eventual man of the match Sean Moran and Ian Burke got their other three points.
However, the big flaw for Kildare was their abysmal shooting. Big lads, good footballers, adept at the skills, good attitude and plenty of heart – they showed all these attributes throughout the match.
But, holy Moses, the finishing! A total of 10 wides in the first half, nine in the second, and they still only lost by five points.
A very disappointed McGeeney summed it up succinctly: "Galway are a good team. They wouldn't be in an All-Ireland final if they weren't but we had our chances.
"We could have won two or three games out there. I just don't know why we couldn't get the ball over the bar. They weren't hard chances. They just couldn't seem to get them over. You'd love to talk around it but you can't get away from 19 wides in a game."
The Kildare boss had gathered his forwards around him on the pitch prior to the second half for a pep talk, but nothing much changed as they continued to shoot poorly from difficult angles.
Kildare's litany of wides, blocks by Galway defenders including a super save by full-back Shaughnessy late in the match, and clinical taking of chances by Galway kept the Tribesmen in front all the way to the finish.
They got a big boost with Sean Moran's 47th-minute goal to put them into a six-point lead at 2-8 to 1-5. Ian Burke made the goal after he got possession from Adrian Varley, with Burke rounding the Kildare 'keeper on the end line before punching the ball across goal for Moran to slot it home.
It was just as well the Tribesmen raised that green flag, because for all their woes, Kildare's second goal, scored by Sean Hurley in the 50th minute, brought the Lilies to 2-5, just three points adrift.
Ten minutes left, could Kildare find salvation? They tried hard and maintained a good attacking tempo, but in the final 10 minutes Galway chiselled out a brace of points by Walsh (free) and Cathal Mulryan to book their appointment with Cork.
Scorers – Galway: S Walsh 0-6 (3fs); S Moran 1-1; T Flynn 1-0; D Comer, C Mulryan, I Burke 0-1 each. Kildare: D Flynn 1-1; S Hurley 1-0; P Cribbin, N Kelly, F Dowling, P Fogarty 0-1 each.
Galway – T Healy; M Loughnane, J Shaughnessy, D Cunnane; D Burke, P Varley, G Canavan; T Flynn, F O Curraoin; C Mulryan, S Moran, D Comer; S Walsh, A Varley, I Burke. Subs: C Rabitte for D Burke (41); P Ezergailis for D Cunnane (44); L Silke for G Canavan (52); E Commins for D Comer (59).
Kildare – M Donnellan; S Higgins, D Hyland, M Konstantin; P Cribbin, F Conway, J Byrne; T Moolick, S Hurley; D Flynn, L McGovern, F Dowling; P Brophy, P Fogarty, N Kelly. Subs: H Mahon for P Fogarty (50); G Farrell for F Dowling (55); T Gibbons for L McGovern (55).
Ref – B Cassidy (Derry).