U21FC final: Galway win thriller

May 04, 2013

Up and coming Galway footballer Damien Comer lines out for Annaghdown hurlers.
©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Galway came out on top by 1-14 to 1-11 over Cork in a thrilling All-Ireland under-21 football final at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick this evening.

The Tribesmen looked impressive throughout, but they had to withstand a brave challenge by Cork particularly in the second half when the Rebels scored 1-3 without reply, but it was to be Galway's day as they collected their fifth All-Ireland title at this level.

The match was played in greasy conditions after rain had made it difficult for the players to keep their grip on the ball and on their feet, but both sides battled bravely throughout the match and they deserve great credit for that.

The first half certainly went Galway's way as they were on top in many areas of the field. From their defence who held Cork to five points, to midfield where they caught some magnificent balls, right through to the forwards, who took some excellent scores, their management team will have been delighted with the opening 30 minutes.

However, to their credit Cork battled away and there was only four points (0-9 to 0-5) between the sides at half time.

It took both sides a while to adapt to the greasy conditions and good hassling by the Galway players made it difficult for Cork to find time and space on the ball. The first score of the match came in the fifth minute when Shane Walsh opened his account for the evening from a close range free after Damien Comer had been fouled when bearing down on goal.

Cork then proceeded to hit two bad wides as they looked to rush their shots and seemed a little nervous during the early exchanges of the match. Walsh had another opportunity in front of goals after Tom Clancy fouled Sean Moran and the Galway corner forward made no mistake. A highlight of his game is the fact that he takes the frees from off the ground, a skill seldom seen these days.

Dan McEoin earned a '45 for Cork in the eleventh minute and full back Damien Cahalane stepped forward to take the kick and his effort sailed high and over the cross bar as the Rebels opened their account for the evening, 0-2 to 0-1.

Despite the wet conditions, both sides showed some excellent high fielding and a huge catch from Galway captain Fiontáin O'Curraoin resulted in the midfielder laying off the ball to Cathal Mulryan who kicked a fine point off his left while on the run.

Galway's defence was very impressive during the first quarter as they snuffed out the Cork threat, and forced them to kick for goal under pressure, while at the other end Mulryan kicked his second point, this time off his right to put the Tribesmen 0-4 to 0-1 up after 18 minutes.

Full forward Adrian Varley made it a four point game soon after when he kicked from out the field and the ball dropped over the crossbar much to the delight of the Galway supporters, while the Cork supporters were certainly begin to worry at this stage.

A foul on John O'Rourke gave Brian Hurley the chance to add to Cork's tally and he duly obliged by kicking a free from the 13 metre line. Straight away, Galway went up the field and Ian Burke lofted over another excellent point for the Connacht champions to restore their four-point lead.

The first goal chance of the match came in the 23rd minute when Luke Connolly bore down on the Galway goal and even though his shot looked to have beaten goalkeeper Thomas Healy, Eoin Walsh was on hand to clear off the line, but Hurley followed up the rebound and took his point.

Burke kicked another beauty a minute later to make it 0-7 to 0-3 by the 25th minute as the game burst into life. A strong run by Comer saw the half forward brought down on the 13 metre line and Walsh tapped over his third point of the evening as Galway kept up the pressure.

Cork needed a quick response and a good move involving Hurley and Brian O'Driscoll resulted in McEoin kicking over to make it 0-8 to 0-4 with a minute left in the first half.

Every time Cork got a score, Galway seemed to go down the other end get one in response and once again it was Ryan that found the range following an excellent effort off his left foot. Certainly the Galway corner forward was in the reckoning for man of the match at this stage of the match.

Cork had the final score of the first half though when McEoin kicked his second of the match to leave the half time score 0-9 to 0-5.

Hurley got Cork off to a great start in the second half as he kicked his third point, which was a fine effort from play, just a minute after the break and the same player made it a two-point game when he turned smartly and fired over from close range.

Whether Ryan felt under threat as the game's top scorer or not, nobody could be sure, but he was not to be outdone and after a good catch, he turned and lofted a point over the bar, 0-10 0-7, 33mins gone.

Cork knew they needed to keep the pressure on Galway and McEoin hit his third of the game to leave the gap at two once again. Mulryan added another for the Tribesmen to quell Cork's mini-revival, but for the neutral, it was an exciting start to the second half.

Galway centre back Daithi Burke was fouled 30 metres from goal and Walsh made no mistake straight on front of goals, 0-12 to 0-8 by the 39th minute. Then, a few second later, Varley gathered a long ball and fed comer who blasted to the net. This was followed by a Paul Varley point to put eight points between the sides with just under 20 minutes to play.

Corner back David Cunnane then got in on the act for Galway when he found himself on front of goal and tapped over to make it 1-14 to 0-8. Alan Cadogan broke Galway's run of scores with a point, but they needed a goal to really get back into the match and there was only one player that could manage that for Cork and he duly obliged as Hurley raised a green flag when he placed the ball right into the corner. This was followed by a point from substitute Cathal Vaughan to leave the score at 1-14 to 1-10 after 46 minutes.
Cork made it 1-3 without reply with an outrageous free from McEoin on the right wing and certainly the momentum was swinging in the Munster champions' favour at this stage of the game.

Galway were dealt another blow when their goalkeeper Thomas Healy was forced off with an injury and replaced by James Healy. Walsh missed a simple free, although he did take it off his weaker left foot, but the maroon and whites did hold a three point lead as the match entered the final five minutes.

Cork poured forward in search of an equalising goal, but a high ball into the Galway square was excellently caught by Thomas Healy and clear for what was the last action of the match.

Galway: Thomas Healy; Eoin Walsh, James Shaughnessy, David Cunnane (0-1); Mark Loughnane, Daithi Burke, Paul Varley (0-1); Thomas Flynn, Fiontáin Ó Curraoin; Cathal Mulryan (0-3), Sean Moran, Damien Comer (1-0); Shane Walsh (0-4frees), Adrian Varley (0-1), Ian Burke (0-4). Subs: Conor Rabbitte for Moran (47mins, James Healy for T Healy inj (48mins), Philip Ezergailis for Cunnane (53mins), S Maughan for Varley, G Kelly for I Burke (both 59mins).

Cork: David Hanrahan; Conor Dorman, Damian Cahalane (0-1 '45), Alan Cronin; Brian O'Driscoll, Tom Clancy, Jamie Wall; Sean Kiely, Ian Maguire; Alan Cadogan (0-1), Mark Sugrue, John O'Rourke; Dan MacEoin (0-3 1f), Brian Hurley (1-4 1f), Luke Connolly. Subs: Jamie Burns for Kiely (35mins), Cathal Vaughan (0-1) for Sugrue (39mins), TJ Brosnan for Wall (42mins), Kevin Hallissey for Cadogan (57mins).

Ref: D Gough (Meath)

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