Wednesday 13 November 2019

Forde focusing on rosy Galway future

Cavan U21 captain Gearóid McKiernan and Galway counterpart Colin Forde at Croke Park yesterday.
Cavan U21 captain Gearóid McKiernan and Galway counterpart Colin Forde at Croke Park yesterday.
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

On paper at least, Galway's good run in the U-21 championship has come 12 months late.

As 2007 All-Ireland minor champions, they were expected to mount a strong challenge last year, but Sligo chinned them in Connacht and they never got off the ground.

That's the nature of this competition, all or nothing, and it can make for compelling football.

A motion at Congress earlier this month that would have seen a back door introduced was defeated, meaning the Cadbury All-Ireland U-21 championship is one of the few bastions of knock-out football still standing in the GAA.

Once again this year, fate threw Galway Sligo in the opening round. It helped focus minds and the lessons from 2010 were well learned.

"Last year we fancied ourselves and got beat by Sligo in the first round and that was a very humbling experience," says captain Colin Forde.


"There are a few of us left over from last year and we're determined to make amends. We always knew we had good footballers, we always have, and this year was no exception. But there was a concentrated effort on combining that with a hard work-rate.

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"The first day we got over Sligo and that gave us a lot of confidence because the first match is usually the trickiest. We then got over Roscommon and we've built up a bit of momentum since then."

Galway foiled Roscommon's attempt to become the first side from the county to retain the Connacht title. Cork were next and were the form side in the competition following their hammering of Kerry in the Munster final.

Chance opened the door for them when All Star and Young Footballer of the Year Aidan Walsh picked up an injury, and Galway grabbed their opportunity with both hands.

"We had played Kerry after the Sigerson, they were missing a few, we were missing a few, but we beat them and knew they probably weren't the strongest Kerry team to emerge from the county," Forde reasons. "But we knew Cork would be a formidable outfit and if we were to win it would take something special on the day.

"The platform the two lads gave us in midfield really built the foundation for the victory. We were fortunate they were so dominant that day.

"There was no pressure on us. We just gave a lash more or less and a lot of lads played well that day and got us over the line."

That result sees Galway enter Sunday's final as warm favourites, but their supporters will be heavily outnumbered by Cavan fans and, as one of the three seniors on the team, Forde -- along with Danny Cummins and Johnny Doyle -- will be expected to provide the leadership.

"They'll definitely outnumber the Galway supporters by about four or five to one, but you love playing in front of a big crowd, especially in Croke Park where they are so many seats," he says.

"You'd prefer it to be more full than empty even if they aren't your own supporters. We're looking forward to that.

"Cavan will be slightly different opposition to what we've encountered previously. They play a slightly more defensive style of football so we'll have to be more patient.

"There is a lot of hype, which will probably counteract the fact we're probably favourites having beaten Cork. But after that game we realise too the favourites tag counts for nothing."

And while the senior side suffered relegation from Division 1, Forde points to the county's strong record at underage level in the last 10 years and insists the future is bright for football in Galway.

"Maybe the county hasn't done as strong as maybe we would in previous years but since 2001 we have won an All-Ireland senior, two All-Ireland U-21s and an All-Ireland minor. For a lot of other counties, that would be considered very successful, but we're used to success in Galway," he reflects.

"I don't know, that seems to be the perception out there, but I see things picking up big time, especially with the run we've had this year and I see the seniors coming under the radar. It's not coming into our minds. We're only going out to do it for ourselves."

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