This year’s intermediate football championship has rarely veered away from script. Once it became apparent that last year’s beaten finalists Oran were struggling with injuries and Tulsk’s brittle mentality was no better in 2017, all the signs pointed towards Michael Glavey’s and Fuerty setting up a repeat of the 2015 final. Throw-in at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday is 4 p.m..
It took Darren O’Malley’s injury-time free to get Glavey’s over the line in Strokestown two years ago. In many ways, Glavey’s haven’t looked back since. The club’s renewal with senior championship football was brief, but they were, for the most part, competitive, gaining an invaluable education that has served them well this season.
Fuerty will feel that their time has finally come to make the seismic leap they crave. They may not have played some of the swashbuckling football that Sunday’s opponents have produced at times this season, but when it comes to resilience and the propensity to get the job done, Eamon Towey’s side tick a lot of boxes. They also have the best player in the championship by a country mile in their forward line, Niall Kilroy.
Both sides know each other so well, having also crossed paths in the 2013 junior decider. Fuerty were victorious on that occasion, and went on to reach the following February’s All-Ireland junior final in Croke Park.
Glavey’s recovered from that disappointment to land junior honours in October 2014. Twelve months later, they were intermediate champions.
It could be argued that their young team made too much progress in such a short space of time. But the dividend from that rapid rise through the ranks could be very substantial if they have their house in order on Sunday. If Glavey’s win this final, they’ll be far better equipped to deal with the demands of championship football at the highest level next season.
When the sides met in the group stages at Mulhern Park in August, Glavey’s dished out a lesson to the home side. Granted that Fuerty picked up injuries to key players on the evening, but the Ballinlough-based side were far too good and weren’t flatted by their 3-15 to 0-12 victory.
Iain Daly’s side suffered a surprise ten-point reversal against Oran in their penultimate group game but they still finished top of the group with a +37 scoring difference. Fuerty were 31 points worse off, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that Glavey’s have been scoring heavily in the majority of their games.
Their semi-final dismissal of an injury-ravaged Oran side was highly impressive. Unlike Fuerty who tend to rely on Kilroy for the bulk of their scores, Cathal Heneghan, Dylan Ruane, Tiernan Murphy and Stephen Comer have been able to take the scoring burden off Andy Glennon.
With Caoileann Fitzmaurice orchestrating matters from the middle of the field, a potent half-back line of Conor Hussey, Gary Patterson and James Brennan has been the platform for numerous Glavey’s attacks. The O’Malley brothers, goalkeeper Darren and full-back Shane, are reliable security guards in the last line of defence.
Fuerty’s main objective will be shut down Glavey’s half-back like in an effort to deny the West Roscommon side’s potent set of forwards possession. In Tom Bannon, Philip Neilan and Peter Kellehan, Fuerty have defenders to deny Glavey’s space.
Aengus Lyons’ energy gives his side options down the flanks. Eoin Whyte and Eamon Bannon are a solid midfield partnership.
If Fuerty are to prevail, they’ll have to either turn the game into an arm wrestle or unearth more scores from their forwards. Kilroy has been immense, drifting into pockets of space to pick up possession and fire over some delightful scores. But the Roscommon player needs more help.
Robbie Fallon stepped up to the plate against St. Dominic’s the last day, hitting 1-3. But the likes of Peter Leahy and Gearoid Ennis need to rediscover the form that made them such a potent duo in the scoring stakes a couple of years ago.
Having built up such a healthy lead against St. Dominic’s at half time, the reality that Fuerty were hanging on at the end will worry them. On the other hand, Glavey’s were clinical against Oran, denying their opponents a sniff of any potential “get out of jail” card.
Apart from the Oran game, Glavey’s haven’t put a foot wrong in the championship. Their spread of scores up front, alongside Patterson, Hussey and Brennan in the half-back line, makes them devastating when they’re let play. However, their ability to react in a tight game has yet to be measured.
Fuerty will aim to keep things compact, frustrate the opposition and hope that they’re still very much in touch when the finishing line comes into view. If it’s a close run thing with five minutes remaining, they’ll feel that they’ve a great chance to succeed.
But Glavey’s are in the box seat. They’re playing really well and their year at senior level wasn’t a waste, despite relegation at the end of it all. Come next Sunday evening, they may well be celebrating an equally quick return to the local championships’ top table.
HERALD VERDICT: Michael Glavey’s