A FIRST OUTING in Croke Park for so many, and a first All-Ireland final spot booked since 2005.
It wasn’t a bad day for Galway at HQ yesterday as they came out on top by the bare minimum against Connacht rivals Mayo in their historic All-Ireland semi-final.
Galway’s Sinead Burke and her one-and-a-half-year-old niece, Marley, and Barbara Hannon with her one-year-old son, Miko Finnegan, celebrate the final whistle.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Róisín Leonard’s late free ensured the thrilling game finished 2-10 to 2-9 despite the late drama that followed, with Megan Glynn putting in a Player of the Match performance and Mairead Seoighe’s 2-1 key for the Tribe in the first half.
And manager Tim Rabbitt, who took the reins from Stephen Glennon ahead of this campaign after working as a selector, was understandably delighted afterwards.
The Oranmore/Maree man, who guided Galway to a Division 1 league final and the Connacht title in his first year in charge, insisted, however, that this is a “combination of three years’ work”.
“Fantastic,” he smiled after his side’s one-point victory, which made it three wins and a draw from four titanic battles with Mayo this year. “Really proud of them. [We] did a lot of good things in that first half, but let them back into the game. It was touch and go the whole time.
“There was nothing between the two teams. It just fell our way at the end. But the girls kept battling. Things went against us at different times. We hit the post and crossbar, different stuff like that.
“If we won that by a point we would be happy and that’s the way it worked out. We knew from the other times we played them that there would be nothing in it.
I am very proud of them. This is a combination of about three years’ work. People in the background like Mike Comer, Noel [Kelly] and Stephen Glennon, the previous manager, they have done massive work to get this team to an All-Ireland final.
“This is our year to get to an All-Ireland final but it is after about three years’ work.”
“I can’t be happier for the group themselves,” he added, reflecting on the past hurt and many times they’ve fallen at the final hurdle through the years.
“We have taken a few hammer blows over the years. Last year’s semi-final hurt us hard. We learnt a lot of lessons from it. I am just delighted today. There is loads of things to work on but that is for another day.”
Galway manager Tim Rabbitt.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Next up is of course three in-a-row chasing Dublin, who booked their showpiece date after a six-point win over arch-rivals Cork afterwards.
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They’ll lock horns in the decider at Croke Park on Sunday, 15 September, for the first time since 2004, when Galway last lifted the Brendan Martin trophy. In fact, that’s the last time a county other than Dublin or Cork have tasted All-Ireland success.
“It is going to be a super occasion,” Rabbitt added. “Playing in Croke Park today, it was the first time we played in Croke Park. That will stand to us on All-Ireland final day.
“There were a lot of nerves out there today as much as we tried to not let them come into play. We have had that now and that is out of the way. We can move on to put a better performance together.
We have got our reward to get to another final. We’ll think about the preparations for it later. Today was about getting our reward.
With the county’s senior camogie side booking their All-Ireland final showdown place against Kilkenny last weekend after bringing the curtain down on Cork’s three in-a-row bid, the intermediates also reaching their showpiece and underage going strong in both codes, Rabbitt is pleased with the buzz in the Western county.
“There is a lot of work being done in Galway Ladies football,” he concluded. “There is a lot of really good people involved in it. We have got to make sure that it is a regular kind of thing now [getting to the final], that it is not once every 15 years or so. There has to be a bit of continuity to it.
“Camogie are doing brilliant. I was delighted for them the last day in Limerick. They put in a super performance. We reference themselves the whole time.
“Everything that is good about Galway sport they did that day; passion, heart, fight. We wanted to make sure whatever about our quality of football, that we were going to bring that to the table.
“I think we did.”
That, they did. And on they go. Onwards and upwards.
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