We're lucky we had a long break, admits Galway boss Mulholland
FACING into Round 1 of the qualifiers was always a likely destination for Galway this year after the first round of the Connacht championship pitted them against Mayo. But nobody expected they would be checking in at the 'back door' following such a humiliating ejection from the front lawn.
By the time they line up against Tipperary in Pearse Stadium on Saturday evening, it will be just under six weeks since the Mayo massacre at the same venue, a period in which some serious soul-searching has been undertaken by manager Alan Mulholland and his squad.
"We needed to do a bit of reflecting alright. There was a lot to examine," said Mulholland.
At the same time, there was nothing to be gained from obsessing on all the negatives from what was one of Galway's worst performances in Connacht championship history.
"Of course you look at what went wrong, but there's no point going into every detail. We know we're better than that. We can't replay the Mayo game, but we can begin to put things right by getting back to doing what we're well capable of. At least we have a chance to do that," he said.
Together with Carlow and Armagh, Galway have had the longest wait between provincial exit and qualifier entry which, according to Mulholland, has plus and minus points.
"It's so long ago that it almost seems like two different seasons. But on the plus side, it has given us a chance to build things back up again and refocus. It would have been very hard to saddle up if we were playing two weeks after the Mayo game. As it was, lads went back to their clubs, played a few games before coming back and concentrating totally on the qualifiers. The important thing to remember is that Galway's championship season is still alive. The challenge is to keep it that way," said Mulholland.
It was a task which Galway carried out with spectacular success in 2001 – the launch year of the qualifiers – when they recovered from losing to Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final to go on and win the All-Ireland title. Apart from the warm glow generated by winning the title, it left Galway believing that the qualifiers would continue to offer real sustenance in years when they didn't win the Connacht title.
It certainly hasn't worked out that way. A win over Louth in 2004 remains their only qualifier win since 2001. It leaves them with the worst record of all the counties, including London, over the past eight years. Galway have lost their last seven qualifiers, five by one- point margins, including the last two (v Antrim and Meath) on precisely the same scoreline, 0-11 to 0-10. They have failed to score a goal in any of their last four qualifiers.
It's not an encouraging back-drop, even if they are at home to a Division 4 team that lost to Kerry by 17 points. However, Mulholland insists the past is not relevant.
"We can't do anything about the games that were lost over the years but we can do something about winning this year, starting against Tipperary on Saturday," he said.
GALWAY IN THE QUALIFIERS
After winning the All-Ireland title through the qualifiers in 2001, Galway have the worst record of all the counties over the last eight seasons, failing to win a game.
Galway 3-12 Wicklow 1-9 (Round 2)
Galway 0-13 Armagh 0-12 (Round 3)
Galway 1-14 Cork 1-10 (Round 4)
Galway 2-8 Louth 0-9 (Round 2)
Tyrone 1-16 Galway 0-11 (Round 3)
Westmeath 1-8 Galway 0-10 (Round 4)
Meath 2-12 Galway 1-12 (Round 3)
Donegal 0-14 Galway 0-13 (Round 4)
Wexford 1-11 Galway 0-13 (Round 2)
Meath 0-11 Galway 0-10 (Round 2)
Antrim 0-11 Galway 0-10 (Round 2)