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Galway can build on solid foundations of twin towers


Galway's Fiontán Ó Curraoin in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo

Galway's Fiontán Ó Curraoin in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo

Thomas Flynn, Galway.  Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Thomas Flynn, Galway. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE


Galway's Fiontán Ó Curraoin in action against Keelan Cawley of Sligo

Galway and double acts. Arguably the best known in Gaelic football history lived on the same street in Tuam when Sean Purcell and Frankie Stockwell terrorised defences in the 1950s. The 'Terrible Twins' moniker sat easily with them.

When Michael Meehan and Sean Armstrong scored five goals between them in the 2005 All-Ireland U-21 final against Down in Mullingar the temptation to clutch at possible comparisons in the future was too readily accepted.

Meehan was already an established senior star and Armstrong's range of skills looked a perfect complement.

Injuries and the heavy, premature weight of expectation somewhat hampered their senior careers however, allied to a dip in Galway's status as a football force over the last decade.

Against that background, great caution is always reserved in Galway about the latest axis to emerge with promise of a better future.

Fiontán O Curraoin and Tom Flynn have already covered much ground in maroon as a midfield partnership.


Together as minors in 2010 they stepped on to Alan Mulholland's U-21 team the following season and landed an All-Ireland title against Cavan as 19 and 18-year-olds respectively.

When they repeated the feat for a second All-Ireland U-21 title two years later, putting a much fancied Cork team to the sword, Galway had every right to lift the expectation on the partnership.

Even the renowned Cormac McAnallen/Kevin Hughes partnership was split for the second of Tyrone's All-Ireland U-21 victories in 2001 when Hughes started the final against Mayo at full-forward. For Ó Curraoin and Flynn to be midfield partners on two All-Ireland U-21 winning teams reflects talent. But fast tracking them to senior as a package hasn't been so straightforward.

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Both made championship debuts in a 2011 qualifier against Meath in Navan which Galway lost. But until this year's visit to London for their Connacht quarter-final they hadn't started a championship game together at midfield.

Flynn was at left wing-forward for his debut and in the same position for much of 2012 before switching wings to the right for the mauling dished out by Mayo in Pearse Stadium last year when Ó Curraoin was midfield.

But for the qualifier games against Armagh and Cork last July he partnered Paul Conroy in the middle with Ó Curraoin held in reserve.

Alan Flynn, their 2013 U-21 manager and a selector with Mulholland up to last year, believes they will still need to time to adapt to the conditions of senior inter-county football.

"Sometimes it is older people that are holding them back in the sense that we are always talking about giving them time," he acknowledged. "But if you are a corner-forward or wing-forward it's a lot easier to make an impact than it is in the middle of the field where you are in against a big, strong 28-year-old."

Flynn is adamant that they played better when paired together, pointing to an innate understanding they have.

"Even though they are the same age they probably play better together," he figured. "They have a massive relationship. They are friends as well as playing colleagues. They have both been in college (DCU) together. They played minor together, as soon as they finished minor they went in U-21 in 2011 and they have been sidekicks since then.

"They are very competitive with each other. That lends itself to being a very good combination."

At 6ft 4in and 6ft 7in Ó Curraoin and Flynn, also a talented hurler, differ from the dimensions more favoured to a majority of inter-county teams now but Flynn doesn't see size as an issue, pointing to complementary qualities.

"Fiontán is the strong man in the air and more defensively minded. Tom is more offensive and likes to be able to do that. They know each other so well that Fiontán knows where to be when Tom goes forward and vice versa."

However it works out for them on Sunday, Flynn is supportive of Alan Mulholland's conviction to pair them together this year. Against Sligo, Mulholland was rewarded with supreme dominance from the pair, Ó Curraoin taking eight kick-outs and Flynn driving forward with impressive impact.

"It's the right way to go regardless of what happens on Sunday," said Flynn. "They have to just give them the chance. If one of them performs and one of them doesn't' they still have to drive on regardless. This is just the way it is as a midfielder at county level. The worst thing they can do is start to lose faith in them because either guy can be as good as what is in the country in my opinion," Flynn added.


"What really defines them for me is that both All-Ireland series they were standout players. Fiontán was man of he match in the All-Ireland final against Cork, Tom was player of the year in 2011 coming out of minor. These guys can perform at the highest level.

"I would think Fiontán is a future captain of Galway. This guy has got a head on his shoulders. Last year we wouldn't have won the All-Ireland title without his leadership.

"Tom has had a lot of injuries but for a big man he is able to cover ground, he can kick a score (his ability as a right- footed kicker to score from the right side of the field is a standout feature of his game) and as we saw the last day he is able to pick a pass."

Galway supporters travel to Castlebar on Sunday more in hope than expectation but if the prospective Ó Curraoin/Flynn axis was to take greater root then Galway can take another step to a better future.

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