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Hero O Curraoin sets sights on senior glory

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4 May 2013; The Galway team celebrate with the cup after victory over Cork. Cadbury GAA Football Under 21 All-Ireland Championship Final, Galway v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

4 May 2013; The Galway team celebrate with the cup after victory over Cork. Cadbury GAA Football Under 21 All-Ireland Championship Final, Galway v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

4 May 2013; The Galway team celebrate with the cup after victory over Cork. Cadbury GAA Football Under 21 All-Ireland Championship Final, Galway v Cork, Gaelic Grounds, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

FIONTAN O CURRAOIN had collected the Clarke Cup only a few minutes before he was being asked by reporters about the next challenge – Galway seniors against Connacht champions Mayo on May 19.

Such is modern life and modern sport. Tick a box, switch the focus on to the future. Not much time to savour the present moment.

O Curraoin, young in age but a man-mountain in stature and a powerful presence in the Galway U-21s for the last three years, was not fazed.

He had been presented with the man of the match award. He was collecting his second All-Ireland U-21 medal in three years and he has a maturity beyond his years.

Success

"Two weeks to go now, so the head's going to be down now for Mayo. Hopefully this success will translate into senior," he said.

"Definitely it's a boost for the seniors to see the U-21s winning an All-Ireland but for myself and the rest of the lads that will be involved, it's about time now that we started to push on.

"There's a real sense in this team that we're able to do that and hopefully we'll start to see that over the next couple of years."

That's not to suggest the Galway skipper and his team-mates were lacking any sense of joy about their achievement.

Indeed, the delight and happiness of supporters, players and management was effervescent and a pleasure to behold.

Victory was achieved despite Cork being slight pre-match favourites, and with the strange statistic that the winners had no score for the last 19 minutes, including one minute of time added on.

Galway were never behind, and led 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time. Their work ethic was outstanding. O Curraoin and Tom Flynn anchored midfield, Cathal Mulryan worked his socks off and contributed some fine scores, as did Shane Walsh.

Ian Burke was class personified. Damien Comer, Daithi Burke, James Shaughnessy and the rest of the side plus the subs emptied the tank in terms of energy and commitment for the cause.

Goalie Thomas Healy injured himself taking a kick-out on the surface made slippery by persistent drizzle, and was replaced by namesake James, who made a crucial catch in the last couple of seconds to prevent Brian Hurley from snatching an equalising goal.

Cork, who have made a habit in this campaign of getting into top gear after half-time, had earlier pilfered three quick points by Hurley (two) and Dan MacEoin inside the first four minutes of the second half.

Later, from the 43rd to the 47th minute they rattled over two points by MacEoin, and got a superb goal with a left-footed strike by Hurley and a point by sub Cathal Vaughan.

Unfortunately, despite those two second-half flurries, Cork didn't do much more in the scoring stakes, as they stalled at 1-11 to Galway's 1-14 after 47 minutes.

The Galway goal in the 40th minute by Comer, followed almost immediately by a Paul Varley point was a significant boost to the winners, as those scores put them 1-13 to 0-8 ahead.

And just to rub it in, defender David Cunnane powered forward the length of the field to take a pass from Comer and clip the ball over the bar.

That was to be Galway's final score of the game and only 42 minutes had elapsed, but the little burst was a tonic for the Tribesmen as it halted the Cork juggernaut in its tracks.

O Curraoin and a number of the Galway squad had bad memories of being nine points up against Cork at minor level a few years ago and losing the match.

Manager Alan Flynn commented: "Maybe that was coming into it. It was something we definitely addressed and we spoke about scenarios of falling behind, or if we took a lead, how we could take advantage and keep driving on.

"In fairness to Cork, we felt if they were allowed any opportunities today they were going to take a load of them, but I felt our defence, particularly in the first 25 minutes of the game, was outstanding."

Cork were well served by Hurley, Damien Cahalane, MacEoin and a level of commendable effort by the other players, but missed opportunities cost the Rebels dearly, and manager John Cleary knew it.

"We didn't take our scores. We were disappointed at half-time that they sat back and we soloed into them and maybe didn't get the ball in quicker," he lamented.

"Their forwards were very sharp and that was probably the difference in the end."

Scorers – Galway: S Walsh (4fs), I Burke 0-4 each, D Comer 1-0, C Mulryan 0-3, D Cunnane, A Varley, P Varley 0-1 each. Cork: B Hurley 1-4 (0-1f), D MacEoin 0-4, D Cahalane ('45'), A Cadogan, C Vaughan 0-1 each.

Galway – T Healy; D Cunnane, J Shaughnessy, M Loughnane; P Varley, D Burke, E Walsh; T Flynn, F O Curraoin; C Mulryan, S Moran, D Comer; S Walsh, A Varley, I Burke. Subs: C Rabbitte for S Moran (47), J Healy for T Healy (49), P Ezergailis for D Cunnane (54), S Maughan for A Varley (59), G Kelly for I Burke (59).

Cork – D Hanrahan; C Dorman, D Cahalane, A Cronin; B O'Driscoll, T Clancy, J Wall; S Kiely, I Maguire; A Cadogan, M Sugrue, J O'Rourke; D MacEoin, B Hurley, L Connolly. Subs: J Burns for S Kiely (36), C Vaughan for M Sugrue (39), TJ Brosnan for J Wall (42), K Hallissey for A Cadogan (57).

Ref – D Gough (Meath).

Irish Independent