Tuesday 26 September 2017

Tribesmen not putting shoulder to the wheel - Divilly

Former player blasts Galway 'not willing to win the dirty ball'

Galway’s John Divilly in action against current Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice during the 2000 All-Ireland SFC final replay
Galway’s John Divilly in action against current Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice during the 2000 All-Ireland SFC final replay
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

GALWAY'S footballers are somehow still upright in a summer that has rocked them back on their heels more than once, but the visit of Armagh on Saturday is expected to finally push them out of the back door.

Just scraping past Tipperary and Waterford in two previous home qualifiers doesn't augur well, while Mayo – the team that gave them such a hiding in Connacht this summer – are expected to clinch their third provincial title in a row on Sunday.

Former Galway centre-back John Divilly pinpoints the difference: "Mayo have bought into whatever James Horan has said and they are just fighting like dogs for every ball, and we are not at the moment," he says.

"I am not going to say the Galway players don't want it, they do, but they are not willing to win the dirty ball, they are not putting their shoulder to the wheel like they should be.

"There is no point blaming (manager) Alan Mulholland. He is working with what he has, I just don't think the quality is there at the moment, it's as simple as that," the Kilkerrin-Clonberne defender says.

"Everyone knows there were two (All-Ireland-winning) U-21 teams and a couple of minor teams in semi-finals but we are in transition, we are building, they are just not up to the level at the moment, it just happens in cycles."

There is certainly deep frustration locally that a county that has won four All-Ireland U-21 titles (2002, 2005, 2011 and this year) and an All-Ireland minor (2007) have not reaped any dividends at senior level, underlining the theory that there is now a huge gap between U-21 and senior standards – but Divilly doesn't buy that.

"No I don't think so, that's just thrown out there every now and then but it's not true," he exclaims.

"If you are good enough you can play at any age. 'The Gooch' has shown that and look at Dublin's Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey this summer.

"Galway are just not ready for it yet. We just have to suck it up and keep working and working and working and our day will come again. It's just a step too far for us for a year or two."

Divilly sees one critical difference between Galway's current team and the one that won All-Irelands in 1998 and 2001 – back then there was a spine of experienced men to shepherd his own cohort through when they first arrived on the scene.

"We were lucky that when we came in there were nearly two senior guys in every line," he points out.

"I had Sean Og de Paor and Ray Silke in the half-backs; Tomas Meehan had Tomas Mannion and Gary Fahey; Padraic Joyce had Niall Finnegan; and Michael Donnellan had Ja Fallon beside him.

"They were around the block, they were leaders and they made things a lot easier for us and those leaders aren't there at the moment, I suppose.

"To be fair to the young lads, there is nothing they can do. Padraic (Joyce) and Joe Bergin are gone now, that bit of extra leadership is gone. It is all falling back on Michael Meehan, who has been brilliant."

But, apart from home advantage for the third consecutive time, he believes Galway have one other advantage this weekend: lack of expectation.

"Teams from a lower division like Tipperary and Waterford are always going to throw the kitchen sink at Galway, and they did and were unlucky. Now Armagh will be heavy favourites and maybe we can produce an unbelievable display."

As a man who moved to live in Kildare and played one season for them in 2006, when John Crofton was in charge, Divilly also takes an interest in their progress and he is now managing the Lilywhites' senior women's team, which includes Siobhan Hurley, a sister of county senior man, Sean.

And while he welcomes all the innovations in the women's game he has one nagging fear about their introduction of a 'Ref-Cam' this summer.

"I just hope it doesn't put pressure on referees, that if someone makes a mistake that managers or supporters or players don't go back and say 'there it is on camera'.

"There's enough pressure on refs already."

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