The Intermediate Club football championship reaches its pinnacle this Saturday as Roscommon’s Michael Glaveys lock horns with Tyrone’s Moy in the Croke Park showpiece.
The Ulster champions had a snatch and grab victory over Kerry’s An Ghaeltacht last weekend, scoring 1-2 at the death to secure their place in the decider.
Their Connacht counterparts accounted for Wexford’s Kilanerin on a scoreline of 0-13 to 0-11 to reach a first All-Ireland final in their history.
Moy will go into Saturday’s game as slight favourites having come out the right side of a tough encounter with a highly fancied An Ghaeltacht side.
The Tyrone outfit are somewhat on the crest of a wave after securing their first county championship in 35 years and a subsequent Ulster title, defeating Down’s Rostrevor in the final.
Having retired from inter-county football at the end of last season, former All-Star Sean Cavanagh surely thought it would be his last appearance at HQ but himself and his brother Colm now stand one game away from the reaching holy grail with their south-Tyrone club.
“I thought down in the Hogan Stand that day after playing Dublin, ‘this is it, this is the last time I’ll have boots on (at Croke Park)’.
“When your club hasn’t won a championship in 35 years at that point, never in a million years did I think I’d be back here six months later,” the former Tyrone captain told the Irish Independent.
Cavanagh, who won three All-Ireland’s with Tyrone, is relishing the opportunity to take to the field on Saturday admits that the romanticism of the club competition represents something different.
“The club run has allowed me almost to fall in love with the game a wee bit again because the county thing is so pressurised,” he said.
“I suppose they never dreamed of getting a chance to go out in Croke Park. I think I’m prouder just for guys like that, to bring them here, and to let them experience it, because I know I’ve been blessed more than anyone to experience it. So yeah, it’s going to be good,” added the five-time All-Star winner.
Standing in the way of Cavanagh’s romantic farewell is the club of the late, great Dermot Earley who have gone on an impressive run since securing the Connacht title.
Michael Glaveys have taken a difficult route to Croker with hard fought wins over Mayo champions Bohola/Moy Davitts and a highly regarded Claregalway in the provincial campaign.
Last week’s victory over a Mattie Forde-led Kilanerin sees the club on the border with Mayo and Galway “living a dream,” according to chairman Gerry Coffey, who spoke to Galway Bay FM.
Glaveys, who won the county Intermediate championship in 2015 but suffered relegation from the senior ranks the following year, have seen a dramatic upsurge in fortunes since the appointment of Ian Daly as manager.
“With that, we brought in a new manager in Ian Daly and a new backroom staff and that revitalised us,” said the club’s sharpshooter Andy Glennon to GAA.ie.
“He really brought a new brand of football to us. Just free and open football and luckily it has worked for us so far,” added the forward as his side prepares for a first All-Ireland appearance.
What to expect?
The pairing of Moy and Michael Glaveys is almost the ultimate clash of footballing styles.
Glaveys’ success has been based upon an open attacking brand of football that has seen them score an average of 18 points over the course of their last three games.
The Tyrone champions, on the other hand, have perfected a defensive system that has seen them neutralise the attacking prowess of their opponents up to now, conceding an average of just nine points over the last three games.
Michael Glaveys will look to exploit the wide open space of Croke Park to get into their trademark attacking flow, a point acknowledged by talisman Glennon.
“It’s a big pitch here and that will suit us, hopefully. We’re a young team and we’re probably a lighter team than they are. So we’d be hoping to use the wide spaces and keep out of contact,” he said.
While the Roscommon side certainly offer plenty going forward, the question of experience may be a crucial factor in deciding which clubs secures a fairytale championship ending.
With an average age of 22, the Connacht outfit will be relying on county panelists Caoileann Fitzmaurice, Conor Hussey and Gary Patterson to provide leadership and lead the way around Croke Park.
The unquestionable advantage that Moy possess is having vast experience of Sean and Colm Cavanagh to call upon for a big match occasion that is not likely to be for the faint-hearted.
In addition, the Tyrone side carry a real goal threat in last week’s hero Harry Loughran who has clocked up eight goals on the way to Saturday’s showdown.
Loughran conceded himself that his side must take full advantage of Saturday’s opportunity.
“You get one opportunity at it, and now it’s about focusing. It’s another game of football, and we can’t let the occasion get to us,” said the forward to the Irish News.
While the early dismissal of Éanna Ó Conchúir for An Ghaeltacht unquestionably aided the northerners’ semi-final cause, they showed all their experience and know-how to eke out a result in the tightest of circumstances.
The game is likely to be decided upon whether the Tyrone men can again curb the attacking threat of Glaveys and particularly Glennon as the Roscommon men will be hoping to avoid the same “rope-a-dope” trap that was set for An Ghaeltacht.
Throw-in: Saturday @ 15:45, Croke Park | Verdict: Moy
Senior columnist for GAA Wrap.