Sean Kelly came off to a standing ovation after powering his club past Mountbellew-Moylough.
Match report from the42.ie, Maurice Brosnan reports from Pearse Stadium
Maigh Cuilinn 3-9
THE WEST IS awake. There will be a unique pairing in the Galway SFC final as 2021 champions Mountbellew-Moylough were dumped out by 2020 champions Maigh Cuilinn who join city club Salthill-Knocknacarra in the final.
If Corofin exposed Mountbellew-Moylough’s faultlines during their one-point quarter-final result, Maigh Cuilinn demolished what was left. The west Galway outfit, who had six players in Padraic Joyce’s 2022 squad, never looked in trouble with the Kelly brothers in particular excelling.
Match-ups were always going to prove critical and the sight of John Daly and Sean Kelly bouncing off each other before the throw-in only further whetted the appetite.
Billy Mannion followed Peter Cooke stride for stride, Colin Murray put the clampers on Dessie Connelly while at the other end, Conor Corcoran was faultless in taking out the in-form Barry McHugh.
Despite the heated anticipation, lift-off took time. The opening ten minutes were filled with inaccuracies and mistakes that would go on to define the play by Val Daly’s side. Paul Kelly kicked three first-half points, although his second should have been a goal as he blazed over with the net at his mercy.
Micheál O’Reilly was at the heart of much of Maigh Cuilinn’s best passages, finishing with 1-2. His goal was a gift after a costly error from goalkeeper Damian Boyle, who attempted to chip the ball up to himself. Neil Mulcahy capitalised and crossed to O’Reilly who gratefully tapped in.
The defending champions were suddenly in a world of trouble. Again, Don Connellan’s side started the second half slow. Finnerty swung one over inside twenty seconds and McHugh converted a free and a great mark after a long ball from his goalkeeper but otherwise, they struggled to take advantage of their opponent’s lull.
Which proved costly. Maigh Cuilinn’s athletic engine room roared back and drove forward. All three Kelly’s providing the necessary punch.
First Paul laid on Peter Cooke for a fisted point, then Galway captain Sean played a one-two with his brother and drove down the middle to raise their second green flag.
Despite being man-marked, Cooke finished with 1-2. He provided much of what Galway need and there is no doubt Joyce would welcome him back to the senior fold with open arms if possible. The midfielder was a physical presence throughout while kicking a free from the ground and 1-1 from play.
In the final quarter, Mountbellew went chasing the game, pushing numbers up on Friel’s kick-out including goalkeeper Boyle. After getting off a short ball, Sean Kelly scooped it up and took off in a trademark burst forward. It was here where he would earn the thunderous applause that greeted his late replacement.
Kelly passed to Paul on the half-forward line and substitution Neil Walsh cut a lone figure at the edge of the square. The pass was good, the goal was simple and the roar was deafening.
Boom. Maigh Cuilinn march on.
Scorers for Mountbellew-Moylough: Eoin Finnerty 0-3 (0-1m), Barry McHugh 0-3, (0-1f, 0-1m), James Foley 0-1, Paul Donnellan 0-1, John Daly 0-1.
Scorers for Maigh Cuilinn: Paul Kelly 0-3, Dessie Connelly 0-1, Ger Daveron 0-1, Micheál O’Reilly 1-2, Peter Cooke 1-2 (0-1f), Sean Kelly 1-0, Neil Walsh 1-0.
1. Damian Boyle
17. Sean Miland 3. Billy Mannion 4. Colin Murray
5. Colin Ryan 6. John Daly 7. James Foley
8. Leo Donnellan 9. Matthew Barrett
10. Colm Mannion 11. Paul Donnellan 18. Gary Sweeney
13. Patrick Kelly 14. Eoin Finnerty (joint-captain) 15. Barry McHugh
12. Ger Donoghue for Ryan (half-time)
2. Mark Mannion for Sweeney (half-time)
20. Kieran Kelly for Mannion (44)
26. Stephen Boyle for Miland (49)
16. Andrew Power
4. Neil Mulcahy 17. Conor Corcoran 6. David Wynne
2. Cian Dein 5. Eoghan Kelly 28. Michael O Mochain
21. Peter Cooke 12. Paul Kelly
19. Ger Davoren 3. Sean Kelly 9. Tom Clarke
25. Michael O’Reilly 24. Owen Gallagher 15. Dessie Connelly (captain)
7. Aedan Claffey for Dein (35)
14. Neil Walsh for Davoren (52)
11. Conor Bohan for Kelly (62)
13. Donal Mac an Choilligh for Gallagher (64)
10. Evan Cox for O’Reilly (64)