Galway girls going for All-Ireland glory again

Galway girls go for All-Ireland glory again
By JIM CARNEY (Sports Editor, Tuam Herald)



ANOTHER big day for Galway Ladies Football, appearing in their
second successive TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship final and
bidding for back-to-back titles, at Croke Park next Sunday.

It’s the 30th anniversary of Galway’s first senior final. But
the ladies game wasn’t established on a high profile basis at
the time and Athy, Co. Kildare was the venue for Tipperary’s win
over Galway in that 1975 final.

Since then, of course, the ladies game has gone from strength
to strength, both in terms of organisation and new structures
and in playing numbers. For instance, Galway now has 32 clubs,
catering for over 2,500 players, ranging from under-12 to senior,
while Cork the largest county in Ireland has 53 Ladies Football
clubs and over 8,000 players. This decade is very rewarding for
Galway ladies football, first at Junior and Minor levels nationally,
and last year an exciting new chapter was written when the most
coveted prize, the Brendan Martin Cup, was won after a thrilling
All-Ireland Senior final against Dublin.

That memorable victory represented a change in power at the highest
level, with Galway taking over from neighbours Mayo, four times
All-Ireland champions and twice National League winners in the
previous five years a magnificent record. It’s probably fair to
say that Galway became a battle-hardened top team through their
many tough games against Mayo, particularly last year when it
took 270 minutes to separate them, and even then Galway had a
mere point to spare as they went through to the All-Ireland final.
This year, again, Mayo and their spiritual leader Cora Staunton,
one of the greatest ever players in Ladies Football, provided
formidable opposition, but such is the format of the Connacht
championship that Galway could afford to lose once to their great
rivals before bouncing back to beat them in the Connacht final
on August 6th.

After that, the All-Ireland champions were confidently on their
way, and they were particularly impressive in scoring another
big match win over Dublin (2-10 to 0-7) in the semi-finals at
O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday, September 10th. Dublin,
again coached by former great goalkeeper John O’Leary, still don’t
know how to beat Galway but Cork do!

The most recent clash between Galway and Cork was the National
League final at Pairc na Gael, Limerick on Saturday, April 30.
Cork were surprisingly easy winners of that game, 2-13 to 0-6,
but Galway took that disappointment on the chin and didn’t hang
their heads.

“Our form was patchy at the time,” said team manager Richard Bowles
to me this week. “We thought we had plenty of work done early
in the season but Cork sustained their effort a lot better than
us on the day. But after we took a break to recharge our batteries,
we stepped up our Championship preparations and I could see improvement
coming week by week. “The girls have worked very hard again this
year. We brought in some new players, all very young, such as
Claire Molloy, Cora Joyce and Caitriona Cormican, and they’ve
freshened things up. The atmosphere at training is very good;
the attitude of the panel is great, and it’s down now to how we
perform on the big day. My big hope is that the team plays to
its potential and, if they do, we’ll be there with a big chance.”

Richard, who succeeded P. J. Fahy at the helm, is a former Limerick
footballer. Working in education, he lives in Gort. His fellow
selectors are Mick O’Connell (Claregalway) and Deirdre Joyce (Clonbur).
This is the fourth successive good year for many of the Galway
players, since they won the 2002 All-Ireland Junior championship
by defeating Donegal 2-17 to 2-7 in the final at Croke Park, on
the day Mayo famously clinched back-to-back All-Ireland senior
titles. Galway players of the present day who won Junior medals
in 2002 include Ruth Stephens (Corofin), Marie O’Connell (St.
Mary’s, Killererin), Annette Clarke (Kilkerrin-Clonberne), Emer
Flaherty (Cortoon), Rebecca McPhilbin (St Brendan’s), Geraldine
Conneally and Deirdre Fallon (Dunmore MacHales), Lorna Joyce (Clonbur),
Patricia Gleeson (Corofin), Fiona Wynne (Annaghdown), Philly Flaherty
(Naomh Ana, Leitir M-r), and the 2005 captain Aoibheann Daly from
Kilconly, who plays her club football with Milltown.

After that breakthrough, several other very talented players came
through, such as Lisa Cohill (Gr‡inne Mhaols), goalkeeper Una
Carroll (Corofin), Edel Concannon (Cortoon), Anne Marie McDonagh
(Salthill), Niamh Duggan (Annaghdown), Michelle Delaney (St Brendan’s),
and one of the hottest young forwards in the game today, Niamh
Fahey (Killanin). Cork defeated Mayo to reach Sunday’s final,
0-13 to 1-9. In a sensational finish to that game, Cork hit four
points in the final three minutes to leave the Mayo ladies heartbroken.

Four members of the Cork panel are going for an All-Ireland Camogie
/ Ladies Football double: Riona Buckley, Breege Corkery, Angela
Walsh and Mary O’Connor.

Next Sunday’s big game will throw-in at 3.10 timed to suit the
live telecast by TG4 Ñ but early arrivals at Headquarters will
have a curtain-raiser: Armagh vs Sligo in the All-Ireland Ladies
Football Junior final at 1.15. The Ladies Football finals will
be all-ticket.

Galway followers should note that tickets will be on sale at the
Menlo Park Hotel in the city today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday)
from 4 to 8 p.m., including group tickets at a special rate.

Galway Ladies Football Board are running a special fund-raising
raffle, with tickets at Û5 each or 3 for Û10. The winners will
be drawn out on October 8th; please support.

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