Saturday 19 August 2017

Galway are back on the right road - Walsh

Galway manager Kevin Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway manager Kevin Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

On the face of it, things look rosy for Galway football.

In 2016, Kevin Walsh's men secured a Connacht title and beat Mayo along the way. They followed that up this season with promotion from Division 2 and they took the silverware along with a long-awaited win in Croke Park to boot.

Throw in the fact that their U-21s reached the All-Ireland final, beating a hotly-tipped Kerry team in the last four, and there's plenty to be hopeful about in Galway.

But Walsh has seen and heard enough around Galway to know that a promising group of underage footballers guarantees you precisely nothing at senior level.

"Look, we are listening to that (that there is talent coming through) since 2002 so you have to be careful… that was one match (against Kerry)," Walsh offered, at the launch of the Connacht Championships in the province's Centre of Excellence in Bekan, Co Mayo.

"Obviously there is bit of talent there to be able to do that but it is up to every individual. Who wants it? Who wants what? You don't know at the age of 20 who wants what. They'll know that themselves.

"There were parts of the game they wouldn't be happy about against Leitrim, against Sligo and obviously the second half against Kerry wasn't the world's greatest, they know that themselves.

"It's U-21, it's not the be all and end all but it gives a bit of hope for the young lads coming up."

Galway's place in the football world has altered significantly in the last 12 months. This time last year his side had just missed out on promotion to the top flight after losing to Cavan in what amounted to a straight shoot-out for Division 1 football.

They would stun Mayo in Castlebar to land a blow on their great rivals. And even allowing for the disappointing performance against Tipperary in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Walsh is happy Galway's stock is pointing in the right direction.

"You'd be disappointed with a performance or two but you'd look back to the start of the year and see how you developed," the double All-Ireland winner said of 2016.

"You can get a result against the grain at times and sometimes it covers over cracks. We would like to look back and say from the start to now, something has developed.

"If it has, you might have lost a game or two along the way but if you're improving it's very, very important that that's what we look at.

"If you win a few games you're not expected to win, belief comes into that and that's something we'd be hoping (to take) from last year, that there's more belief we can take more as a team."

Challenges

Walsh admits that the pressure to win a Connacht title isn't what it was after last year's success but warns a new level of expectation will bring its own challenges.

"It's important to win every game we can. Is the pressure as big as last year? It's probably not as big as last year in certain aspects and then the other side is we're probably expecting a bit more.

"We have got promotion and we were eyeing that up from a bit out, albeit the U-21 came in the middle of it and Corofin went on longer and may have affected us a bit.

"The Connacht title is a big one. It would be lovely to retain it but things can go against you. You can have a bad day out which we had last year.

"And if you do it's how you reset as a team. If you look at last year, bar Dublin, ourselves Kerry and Tyrone were the only teams that lost one game.

"Every dressing room got a lash twice. We got lashed once. It's important you develop as a team so that if you do get a hit along the way and if you have higher aspirations, you learn how to deal with that."

Walsh confirmed that the luckless Michael Meehan's fitness was holding up well and is confident that both he and fellow veteran Sean Armstrong can offer Galway something this summer.

"They are two lads on the road for quite a while. I would have sat down and spoken with them and they showed an interest to come in. It wasn't guaranteed that they would stay in, they knew that at the start.

"They had to be performing to a certain level that everyone else was at. Thanks be to God they're doing that.

"I'm sure there are unanswered questions in their heads, targets to see what was in them and, in fairness to them, they're enjoying it and they are working hard."

Irish Independent

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