Monday 19 March 2018

U-21s can give hope for future – O Curraoin

Cork captain Damien Cahalane, left, and Galway counterpart Fiontán Ó Curraoin will face off in the Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 FC
Cork captain Damien Cahalane, left, and Galway counterpart Fiontán Ó Curraoin will face off in the Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 FC
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

AT this stage, Galway people might be a little sceptical about their successful underage teams.

The Tribesmen have produced a number of promising young sides since the turn of the millennium, winning the All-Ireland minor title in 2007, as well as three U-21 titles since 2002.

So far this year, their minors have won the Connacht league and look to be one of the better teams that the county has produced of late.

Thus, it is evident that Galway boast an underage record that would stand up in most counties – but their fortunes at senior level haven't followed suit.

However, tonight in Limerick, the current generation of U-21s take on Cork in the Cadbury All-Ireland final and midfielder Fiontan O Curraoin, one of three survivors from the successful 2011 side, alongside Tom Flynn and Tomas Healy, believes that whatever the result in the Gaelic Grounds, his generation are ready to push Galway onwards.

"I think we are ready to step up. That's two finals in three years. There's a real sense that this team can push on," he said.

"We've played together at U-16 and minor and there's a bunch here that can kick on. Hopefully, we can eventually translate our progress into senior success."

Flynn's return from a serious knee injury for the Connacht final was a timely one as he helped Galway defeat Roscommon and they built on that success when causing an upset against a heavily fancied Kildare in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

"There was a lot of talk about Kildare beforehand, but it was kind of similar when we played Cork two years ago. Nobody gave us a chance whatsoever and then we went down to Ennis and beat them.

"We looked at that and we knew we were capable of getting a result. Alan (O'Flynn, Galway manager) and the lads knew we were capable, so we just believed in ourselves the whole 60 minutes."

These Cork and Galway teams have struck up something of a rivalry in recent years. In the minor All-Ireland semi-final three seasons ago, Galway were leading by nine points in the second half before Cork staged a stunning rally.

The following year in the U-21 grade, with a handful of the same players involved, including O Curraoin, Galway got their own back on the way to the All-Ireland title.

"Coming out of minor, it was brilliant to get to that final and win it. But it probably means a bit more to be with this current side – just to be with the lads you grew up with and played with through the years..."

And with Galway heroes Paul Clancy and Declan Meehan forming part of O'Flynn's back-room team, along with senior manager Alan Mulholland, O Curraoin reckons the achievements of the U-21 side have been a shot in the arm for the seniors ahead of the Connacht opener with Mayo.

"Hopefully, the seniors can take something from this, and give us a bit more drive going into the Mayo game.

"They are dominant now in Connacht. It's up to us to raise the bar now, try to get up to them.

"They're the team everyone is looking up to at the moment."

Irish Independent

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