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Galway minor manager Donal O Fatharta.
Galway minor manager Donal O Fatharta.

Electric Ireland MFC Q-F: Galway finish strongly

Electric Ireland Minor Football Championship Quarter-Final

GALWAY 0-18 CLARE 0-11

By Kevin Egan at Bord Na Mona O’Connor Park

Galway’s minor footballers recovered from an incredibly slow start in Tullamore, but produced a hugely impressive second half performance to overcome Clare and set up an All-Ireland semi-final clash with Meath in a fortnight’s time.

A lively breeze blew down the ground in Bord na Móna O’Connor Park, but that was only one factor in a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the Tribesmen, who scored just three points in the first half – all frees from the boot of roving wing back Ryan Monaghan – but then raised 15 white flags after half time as they took control of every phase of the game, starving the Clare forwards of time and space, dominating the battle for kickout possession and carving out a series of excellent chances.

This result means that all four provincial champions came through their quarter-final clashes this weekend, and arguably this was the game where the prospect of an upset would have been seen as the most remote. That cursory analysis looked hugely flawed in the early stages however as Clare played some good football, led by strong performances from Chibby Okoye and Emmet McMahon in the centre of the field.

Two early points for Thomas Kelly and a third from Keelan Guyler were the only scores is closely-contested but disjointed first quarter, but Clare stepped up the intensity as the half wore on, sensing that their opponents hadn’t carried their Connacht form into this tie.

Neither centre forward Cian McDonough nor full forward Shane Meehan scored from play, but they orchestrated a lot of good play, with Guyler and Joey Droney the beneficiaries as they fired over points. Clare’s big chance to put real distance between the sides came after 24 minutes when Guyler played in Droney and the Michael Cusacks man duly skinned his marker and drove at goal, only to flash his shot across the posts and wide.

Still, an 0-7 to no score lead with five minutes to go before half time looked like a significant advantage. Crucially however, the Galway forwards worked their way into the game and won three frees that were kicked over by Ryan Monaghan. While the advantage was still very much with the Banner County at the break, 0-8 to 0-3 in front, the seeds had been planted for a second half comeback.

Those seeds sprouted, bloomed and blossomed almost immediately. Once the ball was thrown in at the start of the second half captain Conor Raftery got his team going with an inspirational score from range, and substitute Oisín Gormley more than justified his introduction with the first of three excellent points from play.

While star forwards Daniel Cox and Matthew Cooley never really got going, Galway’s penetrating runs from deep positions started to poke holes in the Clare defence, while a general increase in work rate resulted in a completely different landscape for the Clare forwards at the other end of the field.

Not content with playing their part in a strong defensive effort, the Galway half back line were also key to the Tribesmen’s solid attacking work in the second half. Cathal Sweeney drove forward wot win frees and create overlaps, Ryan Monaghan continued to nail his dead balls and play his part in a number of good attacking moves, while centre back Tony Gill drove forward to kick a stunning levelling score after 43 minutes.

Once Conor Raftery kicked Galway in front after 45 minutes, Donal Ó’Fatharta’s side never looked back. Eoghan Tinney kicked a couple of points, Tomo Culhane and Niall Cunningham got on the scoresheet to make it a total of 0-5 from the Galway benc. Tadhg Lillis and Shane Meehan kicked points to try and keep Clare in the game, but their challenge faded as Galway continued to go from strength to strength right up until the final whistle.

Scorers for Galway: Ryan Monaghan 0-6 (6fs), Oisín Gormley 0-3, Conor Raftery and Eoghan Tinney 0-2 each, Aidan Halloran, Tony Gill, Daniel Cox, Tomo Culhane and Niall Cunningham 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clare: Shane Meehan 0-4 (4fs), Thomas and Keelan Guyler 0-2 each, Joey Droney, Emmet McMahon (f) and Tadhg Lillis 0-1 each.

GALWAY: Donie Halloran; Ethan Walsh, Seán Black, Cian Deane; Ryan Monaghan, Tony Gill, Cathal Sweeney; Conor Raftery, James McLoughlin; Liam Judge, Aidan Halloran, Éanna McCormack; Eoghan Tinney, Daniel Cox, Matthew Cooley.

Subs: Conor Halbard for Black (24), Oisín Gormley for McCormack (HT), Tomo Culhane for Cooley (59), Niall Cunningham for A Halloran (60), Seán Horkan for McLoughlin (60).

CLARE: Michael Garrihy; Jack Reidy, Darragh Connelly, John Murphy; Gavin D’Auria, Cillian Rouine, Adam O’Connor; Chibby Okoye, Emmet McMahon; Thomas Kelly, Cian McDonough, Conor Carrig; Keelan Guyler, Shane Meehan, Joey Droney.

Subs: Gearóid O’Grady for O’Connor (33, BC), Tadhg Lillis for Carrig (41), Pádraic O’Donoghue for D’Auria (50), Kevin Keane for Guyler (57), Robin Mounsey for Droney (59), Damian Lynch for Cian McDonough (60).

REFEREE: Padraig O’Sullivan (Kerry).

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