(Photo – Galway GAA)
Began with highs, ended with lows is probably the best way to describe Galway’s football year but it wasn’t a write-off season for the Tribesmen even if expectation ultimately succeeded delivery.
Despite two senior trophies, and two underage Connacht titles, one can’t escape Sunday, 9th July in Pearse Stadium when Roscommon ripped the provincial title out of Galway’s hands.
We should have been forewarned after Tipperary’s blitz in the 2016 All-Ireland senior quarter-final but goals for Cian Connolly and Brian Stack gave Kevin McStay’s charges their first Connacht win in seven years and sent Galway through the qualifier route.
That being said, they bounced back just 13 days later hammering Donegal 4-17 to 0-14 in Markicievicz Park. Kevin Walsh’s side looked recharged as Johnny Heaney goals, a Liam Silke penalty and Danny Cummins ended Rory Gallagher’s reign while Sean Armstrong also chipped in with six points.
Alas, it was a false dawn, or re-dawn, as the Tribesmen tamely exited the championship in the quarter-final as Kerry came out 1-18 to 0-13 winners without breaking much sweat. It was a disappointing conclusion to a year that looked set for a serious assault on a top four spot.
Galway began the Connacht FBD League in January and finished the month with the trophy defeating Roscommon 2-14 to 0-15. Even though they finished with 13 men, goals for Cillian McDaid and Cummins put them on the front foot with Barry McHugh impressing in his debut season with six points.
After years caught in the Division Two wilderness, league promotion was a key target and after an opening draw with Cork, wins over Fermanagh, Clare, Down, Derry and Kildare ensured top flight status.
In order to give Gary O’Donnell another cup to collect, Galway needed to break their Croke Park jinx and get a first victory in headquarters since winning the 2001 All-Ireland senior title. A tight opening 30 minutes became more free flowing after the restart as O’Donnell, Heaney, Shane Walsh, Paul Conroy, Armstrong and MIchael Daly minors proved decisive in an 0-18 to 0-16 win.
The summer knew no limits as Galway defeated Mayo for the second successive year. It was a matter of holding on as 14-man Mayo forced a comeback but Damien Comer, Armstrong and Gary Sice on target, Galway won again setting up their final encounter with Roscommon where things went pear shape.
(Video – Simply GAA)
It must be remembered there was more ticks than blots on Galway’s 2017 copybook but the bad marks came at the wrong time. Division One survival will be their first challenge in 2018 but the season will be defined on making an All-Ireland semi-final.
One team that seems to find winning a habit way is Corofin who secured their fifth consecutive County crown in October. After a serious scare in their semi-final against Annaghdown, Kevin O’Brien’s men were comfortable 2-14 to 0-10 winners thanks to goals for Conor Cunningham and Martin Farragher.
2017 hadn’t began well losing to Dr. Croke’s of Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. But should they overcome London’s Fulham Gaels in the deferred quarter-final (thanks to heavy December snow), they’ll get another chance at returning to Croke Park against Kildare’s Moorefield.
Dreaming of a White Christmas? You got it! McGovern Park following postponement of the AIB GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Quarter-Final match between Fulham Irish and Corofin #TheToughest pic.twitter.com/ePiD2jkWt4
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) December 10, 2017
They earned their place the hard way in the Connacht series. It took extra-time and goals for Ian and hurling All-Star Daithi Burke to defeat Roscommon’s St. Brigid’s 2-15 to 1-14. And added time was also needed in Tuam Stadium on November 26th but green flags for Michael Lundy and Conor Brady gave them a 2-13 to 1-12 win over Castlebar Mitchells.
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) November 12, 2017
In other domestic action, Claregalway had a busy weekend when they were crowned County Intermediate champions before facing Sligo opposition the following day. On Saturday, 9th November, Conor Kelly’s goal was decisive in beating Williamstown 1-12 to 0-12 to return to senior.
And 24 hours later, they had to negotiate St. John’s from Sligo in the Connacht semi-final by 1-12 to 1-10. However, their efforts didn’t materialise with another trophy as Roscommon’s Michael Glaveys were comprehensive final winners.
St. Gabriel’s ended years of hurt when they defeated An Fhairce-Clonbur for their first Junior county title since 1982 but fell to Lahardane MacHales in the Connacht semi-final. Claregalway defeated Salthill/Knocknacarra to win a first ever minor title. And a late David Glynn goal gave Klconly victory over Michael Breathnach in the senior relegation final.
Galway did win two Connacht titles. Gerry Fahey’s under 21s defeated Leitrim and Mayo to take their place in the Connacht Final. In the last decider at this age level, Sligo forced extra-time after a Michael Daly goal but two more for substitute Sean Kelly gave the Tribesmen the spoils.
They followed with arguably the performance of the year hitting 1-7 in the opening 10 minutes against a fancied Kerry team. Dessie Conneely got the first major before Colin Brady sealed it with a second. But All-Ireland glory eluded Galway as Dublin won the decider 2-13 to 2-7.
The minors began with a 1-13 to 1-6 semi-final victory over Roscommon before facing Sligo in the decider. Stephen Joyce’s players left nothing to chance in Pearse Stadium as Padraic Costello, Conor Campbell and Daniel Kenny got the goals and Darragh Silke scored four points in 3-11 to 0-10 result.
But they wouldn’t repeat their 2016 heroics when they reached the All-Ireland final as Cavan had their number in Carrick-on-Shannon on August 5th winning 1-11 to 0-11 in the quarter-final.
Retirements and departures dominated the close season with McDaid announcing in November that he was heading to Australia after signing a two-year deal with Melbourne club Carlton. While just before Christmas, two stalwarts over the last decade and a half, Michael Meehan and Finian Hanley, confirmed their departures from inter county action as a new generation of stars look to make their mark in 2018.