Are Moycullen the next Corofin? Based on this conflicting and not entirely clear evidence, Galway’s champions are not quite up to that lofty All-Ireland level and could fall short to hard-hitting Ulster opposition in the new year.
but that prediction will not disturb the new kingpins of Connacht in the slightest. This was an odd match in a sun-drenched but bitingly cold Pearse Stadium – nearly coma-inducing in the tedium of the first half, much more enterprising afterwards – but the reality is that the 1/8 pre-match favorites never seemed to lose it.
They led 0-4 to 0-3 at half time; with the wind at their backs, they trusted their firing to do the rest.
As it turned out, Peter Cooke led the attack with a trilogy of excellent runs as they beat the seven-in-a-row Sligo champions 0-9 to 0-3 after the restart.
History in the making, then – patented in west Galway, not south Sligo.
Neither side had won a Connacht title beforehand; it had been four decades since Tourletrane had reached a final, while this was Moycullen’s first ever campaign, after Covid derailed any higher aspirations following their first provincial success in 2020.
“We started in July – played Spiddal here,” their manager, Don Connellan, recalled. “You only dream of being here. We’ve had a lot of tough challenges. Had to dig deep several times, and again today. Happy to be at this stage and take a break now, get ready for the next day.
That will be against All-Ireland holders Kilcoo or Derry contenders Glen. Moycullen’s journey to the final four was marked by passages of brilliance and humdrumness; they will need more of the former in January.
But as Galway skipper Seán Kelly commented: “You have to have confidence – we are a good team. Of course we could have done some things better. We’ll review it and work on it for the Christmas season. We’re studying Glen or whoever, Kilcoo.
“You have to enjoy it too. . . we know we can present it to anyone.”
The most charitable thing you could say about the first half is that it was better than watching paint dry – marginally – but the Galway champions still appeared in the box seat at half time, with a 0-4 to 0 -3 lead and come with the famous fresh Salthill elements.
Moycullen liked to play keep-ball and shunned any point attempt from further than 25 yards. Tourletrane responded in a space-clogging manner, bringing all 15 back at least once in their ’45. Cue stalemate.
The visitors took the lead three times, through striking points from John Kelly, Liam Gaughan and Kelly again. Each time they were tied back to parity by tap-over milling from Dessie Conneely, who then added a fourth before half time.
Tourletrane had squandered some promising positions through sloppy passes. On the other hand, Paul Kelly had failed to find enough power with an early fist chance; then Gerard Davoren rattled the crossbar in the 19th minute on one of the few occasions when a slick Moycullen pass cut open the Sligo defence.
“The first half was tough,” admitted Seán Kelly. “It was probably a bad enough game to watch; it was slow. We knew that they would have to come out a bit in the second half if we did get ahead. They should be chasing us and it would open.
And that’s more or less how it turned out. Owen Gallagher set the new, more expansive agenda by jumping past a potential tackler before crossing from the right wing.
Tourlestrane’s inside forwards (who shared their entire six-point haul, all out of the game) still looked vibrant when the opportunity presented itself, with Moylough indebted to a vital recovery tackle from Eoghan Kelly just as his namesake, John Kelly , preparing to pull the trigger. .
The ensuing scramble included the hint of a potential penalty; Jerome Henry blew for a freeout instead.
Not that the underdogs could complain too much about that, especially after Moycullen put pressure on Tourletrane’s kick-off and scored three points in barely 90 seconds via Cooke, Micheál O’Reilly and the influential Paul Kelly.
Although Liam Gaughan answered with the second of his three points, Tourletrane hoped to go west effectively after James Leonard failed to get a clever over-the-top pass from John Kelly, allowing ‘keeper Andrew Power to smother.
Moycullen duly won the last quarter 0-5 to 0-1, Cooke completed his tour de force in the second half deep into stoppage time.
Losing boss Fergal O’Donnell – a former Roscommon teammate of Connellan – estimated that Tourletrane ultimately struggled to keep pace with a team “full of athletes”.
“The score is a bit difficult for us,” O’Donnell surmised. “I can’t say enough about this group of players and the club.
“Look, I’m a substitute. Gerry (McGowan) and Eamonn (O’Hara) started the journey, they won the five, and Kevin Johnston then came in… these guys, one against 40, the effort they put in is enormous.”
SCORERS – Moycullen: D Conneely 0-4f; P Cooking 0-3; P-Kelly 0-2; O Gallagher, M O’Reilly, T Clarke, A Claffey 0-1 each. Tourlestrane: L Gaughan 0-3; J Kelly 0-2; G Gaughan 0-1.
MOYCULLEN — A force; C Corcoran, E Kelly, N Mulcahy; A Claffey, D Wynne, M O’Reilly; G. Davoren, P. Kelly; S Kelly, N Walsh, P Cooke; T Clarke, D Conneely, O Gallagher. Subs: D Cox for Walsh (58), E Kenny for O’Reilly (62), M Moughan for Davoren (63).
TOURLESTRANE – A Brother; JF Carr, JP Lang, B Walsh; O Kennedy, a McIntyre, N Gaughan; F O’Donnell, C Marren; J Leonard, J Kelly, K Gavigan; G Gaughan, C Henry, L Gaughan. Subs: N Egan for K Gavigan (45), S Henry for O’Donnell (52), R Kennedy for Leonard (54), K O’Hara for N Gaughan (57), A Marren for Kennedy (59).
REF – J Henry (Mayo)