Sunday 22 October 2017

Former Galway management team under fire from Sice

Gary Sice of Galway is congratulated by manager Kevin Walsh as he is substituted late in the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final Replay
Gary Sice of Galway is congratulated by manager Kevin Walsh as he is substituted late in the Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship Final Replay

It's a case of a lot done, more to do for Galway's footballers but having witnessed some dark days in maroon and white, Gary Sice feels that Kevin Walsh is steering the Tribesman down the right road.

Coming into Walsh's third year at the helm, there are clear signs of progress, with 2016 bringing a first Connacht title in eight years as they broke Mayo's stranglehold on provincial honours. And despite a surprise All-Ireland quarter-final exit to Tipperary, there's a renewed sense of optimism in the west.

After All-Ireland U-21 wins in 2011 and '13 it was expected that senior success would quickly follow but Sice, who fell out of favour with management and was not part of the 2014 championship panel, is quick to note that the days of management expecting things to happen naturally are long gone.

The Galway stalwart, an U-21 All-Ireland winner in '05, believes they have found solidity under Walsh.

Disorganised

"It's the first time in a while that we've had someone stay on as manager - we had a three-year period of management there where, in my opinion, there was a bit of a lack of organisation," the 32-year-old said.

"They weren't in any way building something, they were just kind of hoping Galway football would take off. That's not what happens.

"Kevin has a very distinct plan in place, he wants it do this way and we're going to build this way and this is going to suit what we have.

"And when you have something like that and you can see where it's going. . . we got a marker of progress this year, a Connacht final, you jump on ship and say 'yeah okay this makes sense, we're making a bit of progress'.

"Hit a rock against Tipperary, took in a bit of water, didn't sink though. The group stayed together and we'll go again and see where we end up.

"Getting out of Division 2 would be lovely and a crack at Mayo in June in Galway would be a real marker again."

While they would benefit from Division 1 football in 2017, Sice is "not sure" if the current crop are ready just yet, but he feels Galway legend Walsh has given them the instruments needed to make an impact.

"Before, we didn't really have the tools needed to deal with a Mayo that were grinding out results and developing a machine over a five-year period.

"They dominated Connacht completely through organisation, through ruthlessness, through what I could only describe as bully tactics. They really played senior football.

"The two U-21 teams that came through weren't given the tools to live at senior, and Kevin has now given it to them. He's given them a set of tools to play senior, and lo and behold they've turned around and beaten Mayo.

"It's not rocket-science, is it? But it takes someone to come in and do that and do the rough work and do the dirty work and get it right; he has done that and I think he's onto something good.

"You have to build something concrete. And Kevin knows that and he's doing it. He's building from rock-bottom up. And he is slowly getting us up there and is slowly making us into what I think will be a formidable enough team for a while to come."

Corofin star Sice - who is currently in preparation for an All-Ireland club SFC semi-final against Kerry champions Dr Crokes - feels the tide may be turning in Connacht and after watching Mayo contest three All-Ireland finals in six years without success, he hopes their "cycle" is coming to an end.

"A lot of learning's done, a lot of confidence built up in the way Kevin does things. Sometimes when you have a new manager in you need an instant hit to get to get confidence built up," he said.

"I'm not so sure if the younger quantity would've totally understood who they were dealing with and now they've seen it and lived it with him, it could be the start of something.

"And quite often things go in cycles. Mayo have had a pretty long cycle, There could be a wheel turning with them, our group is getting a little bit older, a bit cuter and hopefully they can turn the wheel on Mayo.

"If we turned them over in Galway that'd set down another marker."

Irish Independent

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