Thursday 23 March 2017

Joyce driven by dreams of Galway glory

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Padraic Joyce Photo: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile
Padraic Joyce Photo: Oliver McVeigh / Sportsfile

Retirement from inter-county football was never an issue for Padraic Joyce after the way Galway's 2010 championship season ended up.

The veteran forward of 13 previous championship seasons has once again spread himself thinly over the winter months to preserve his energy and enthusiasm with great economy.

And, if it produces the same stellar form he enjoyed in 2010, Galway supporters won't be complaining.

Joyce, one of the few players to emerge from a torrid season with any credit, candidly admits that 2010 was the most disappointing year he endured since making his championship debut with Galway in 1998.

"The way last year finished up it would have been a bad way to end the whole thing," he said.

"Last year was a very disappointing year for us, the most disappointing in my time, so hopefully this year we can try to push on a bit further.

"I said it before that if I didn't feel up to it, I wouldn't be here. I'm as enthusiastic as ever, the dream is always there to try to win another one."

The break was a matter of necessity as much as choice for Joyce as he allowed a troublesome back injury to calm down.

"I was involved in the club last year from Connacht final stage up to the end of November, and I had a back injury that kept me out of the start of the league.

"You can't be playing every week. The main thing for me at my age is to keep injury free, do enough training over the winter and keep stretched out.

"You know your body as well as anyone at this stage.

"It's not a bother to me that people look at me as being older, I've been around so long I can't help what people think."

The disappointment of 2010 was set against the backdrop of Joe Kernan's arrival as manager and the expectations which that created.

But after avoiding relegation from Division 1 -- their championship performances dipped badly.

"Expectations would have been very high last year, but we didn't get out of Connacht -- we couldn't get past Sligo in two attempts -- and we played Wexford then and didn't play particularly well," said the 34-year-old.

"I have to say, at the end, we were unlucky not to win it, but you can't go on about that."

The results were a stark reminder about how far Galway had slipped back from one end of the decade to the other.

"It was an indication of where we were last year.

"I always say that results never lie and this year we got relegated to Division 2, which wouldn't have been the best, so we're not in the top four or five anymore anyway. We haven't adapted very well to the way the game is evolving."

It was no coincidence that Joyce's return for competitive duty yielded a spike in their form towards the end of the league with a win over Armagh and a draw with Dublin.

Despite relegation, it brought some calm to a campaign that had been doused with controversy after the early departure from the squad of co- captain Kieran Fitzgerald and Niall Coleman.

Their departure sparked suggestions of huge disharmony within the squad, suggestions Joyce says were annoying.

"Of course it was annoying because there was none there.

"Two players decided to leave the panel, one left because of work commitments and the other left through injury, so people put two and two together and got five.

"It didn't do any damage to us as players, but obviously from the outside people think this and that are wrong, and obviously that's bad for morale. You're better off everyone in the boat rowing the one way."

He admits that Galway's performance against Mayo in Tuam, their third match of the campaign, registered a new low on their graph.

A spectator that day, what disappointed him most was the lack of bite in the players.

"It was very poor, I was watching it and there were some very poor performances. There was no real bite to our play. It was a bad defeat for us."

Galway football has been lifted by the All-Ireland U-21 success and Joyce believes that up to six or seven of that team can now challenge forcefully for places in the senior team in the months ahead.

"Hopefully, we'll pick up six or seven of those lads to play with us," he said.

"We just want to get them in and get them on the team, and get them performing.

"When we won the All-Ireland back in 1998 there were six of us playing U-21, and we won it. So, we can always hope we might do the same."

Joyce fears his attacking colleague Michael Meehan will be hard pressed to make it back in time of the opening championship games against Mayo or London at the end of June.

"He's kind of back to training, but he's still struggling to be match fit," he said.

"He's been out for two years, he came back and only played 10 minutes against Sligo the first day and 20 minutes the second day and then went off with a bad ankle injury the last day.

"He's under pressure to be back for the championship."

Irish Independent

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