BY NIALL SHERRY
ALL PIX DANNY LAHART
Mooncoin out to prove a thorn in Connacht champ’s side
AIB All-Ireland JHC Semi-Final
Mooncoin vs Salthill-Knocknacarra (Galway)
Sunday, January 23rd, LIT Gaelic Grounds, Limerick, 1:30pm
All roads lead to the LIT Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on Sunday, as Kilkenny and Leinster junior champions, Mooncoin look to continue their remarkable journey when they face-off against the Connacht kingpins, Salthill-Knocknacarra,
Manager Will Coogan knows that Sunday’s challenge will be a lot stiffer than that faced against Offaly side Shamrocks in the provincial decider.
The Galway side have a real talent in their ranks, in exciting attacking star, Donal O’Shea. The son of former Tipperary manager Eamon has been in sensational form. No doubt O’Shea’s form has come onto the radar of new Galway manager Henry Shefflin. Indeed, O’Shea became the first player from the Salthill/Knocknacarra junior club to play senior hurling for Galway in their Walsh Cup victory over an Offaly side managed by Ballyhale’s Michael Fennelly. O’Shea scored 1-9 in that win. The former U20 inter-county forward scored 0-12 in their provincial final victory over Sligo side Easkey last month.
As well as top scoring that day, O’Shea also played a large part in his side’s goal, as it his delivery into the danger zone that was flicked to the net by his captain, Michael O’Donnell. The captain finished with 1-1 to his name, and was also instrumental in his role at centre-forward.
Diarmuid Ó hAodha’s side like to get off to a fast start, and Mooncoin will need to be quickly out of the traps to ensure the Galway team don’t hit an early purple patch in their bid to reach next month’s final. Along with half-forwards, O’Shea & O’Donnell, Salthill Knocknacarra will look to full-forward Brian Griffin who will welcome an early ball into his area of the pitch.
At midfield, Seanie Joyce has been impressive, and is more than capable of getting on the score board as he showed in the Galway County final against Míchéal Breathnach’s. At the back, Ó hAodha will be hoping his side don’t offer as many goal-scoring opportunities to Mooncoin as they did in their victory last time out. Had Easkey taken at least one more of these, the result may have been different. They will look to vice-captain Brendan Moran and Stephen Piggott to marshal the defence and restrict the supply of ball into Mooncoin’s ‘goal God’ Pa Walsh.
There’s no doubting that Mooncoin’s goal threat is real, and as Pa has shown, he knows where the net is. In his sides Leinster decider, against the Offaly champions, Walsh finished his days’ work with 3-6 to his name, most of which came from play. How Salthill Knocknacarra deal with the threat of Walsh, will be one on the key factors in determining who prevails in Limerick on Sunday.
Mooncoin manager Coogan revealed that Pa Walsh had been struck down with Covid before Christmas, and that the break during that period has probably done him the world of good, allowing him to come back into the fold in time for the Shamrocks win.
The impressive form of Ciaran Quilty has been another plus for the men from the Suir. Quilty is not shy about taking a score either and links the play well from wing-forward. Inside him, you will find Mairtin Gannon who can again exert great influence from No.11. Driving all on from centre-back will be Martin O’Neill, who hit a couple of lovely long-range scores the last day. In defence, Cormac Daly and Shane Walsh will look to keep things tight. Whoever Wille Coogan gives the marking job on Donal O’Shea too will be in for a very tough afternoon, and Mooncoin may need to double up on the rising star.
This is a very young Mooncoin side, with many of them lining out for the club’s U21 side. Whatever happens on Sunday, the future of the club looks extremely bright.
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
This is bonus territory for Mooncoin. Did they think they the County and Provincial titles would be in the bag when the season started?
Goals have been a huge feature of Wille Coogan’s side this season, and again Pa Walsh will look to spearhead the Kilkenny men’s threat. They might need a few majors to see off the threat from Salthill Knocknacarra.
The Galway side possess one of hurling’s rising stars in Donal O’Shea. His last two U20 inter-county championship campaigns have seen O’Shea register 2-27 & 2-21 for the young tribesmen. That followed on from leading the county’s minors to All-Ireland success in 2018 and culminated with O’Shea being named minor hurler of the year.
Restricting his threat will not be easy, but Mooncoin will give it a go. You just never know – hopefully we will hear the strains of the ‘Rose of Mooncoin’ on Sunday night, again, hopefully in victory.