'Negativity in the media drove us on to beat Mayo' - Damien Comer on Galway's resurgence
Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30
As Galway lurched through an uninspiring league campaign, no one inside the Tribesmen's camp was losing too much sleep about it. They had been told their real focus lay elsewhere.
Star forward Damien Comer revealed that since the start of the year, manager Kevin Walsh had stressed their focus was on the June trip to Castlebar to face Mayo in the Connacht Championship.
By the time the teams came together, all known form pointed to a Mayo win as their results had improved as the league wore on.
For their part, Galway had been uninspiring in the league, missing out on chance to secure a place in the top flight with defeat to Cavan in the final round of matches.
That defeat meant that by the time Galway got on the bus to head for MacHale Park, they hadn't won a competitive game since beating Derry in Celtic Park in late February.
"Kevin said the league is the league," Comer stated at the announcement of EirGrid as the GAA's first Official Timing Sponsor.
"If we deserve to get promoted, we'll get promoted but it wasn't his main focus.
"From the start our focus was Mayo. We knew we owed them one and even at the start of the year he said, 'The league is the league, we're looking towards Mayo when we're playing in Castlebar in the championship'.
"That was our primary focus and what we were building towards."
With that indifferent league form in mind, Galway were given little chance of beating a Mayo side looking for a sixth successive Connacht title in their own back yard.
And Comer revealed that predictions of a Mayo stroll were used a fuel for the fire.
"I suppose (being written off was) probably based on our previous performances and we probably inherited a lot of it. Everyone wrote us off. The media wrote us off.
"Even on the 'Sunday Game' they said, 'Obviously it's going to be a Roscommon and Mayo Connacht final', but I think that just drove us even more. That made us want it even more.
"We knew what we had in our locker and Kevin instilled the belief in us and we started to believe in each other as a team as to the performance we can get out of it.
"The kind of negativity in the media was the biggest thing that drove us on to beating Mayo but we've been on the wrong end of a few hammerings from Mayo as well so you could see where we were. It was probably our own doing as much as anyone else.
"But it was nice to get over it."
They haven't looked back since then. The dismal drawn Connacht final didn't seem to benefit anyone but Comer believes the experience of another championship game will serve this young Galway side well.
"We probably did leave it behind us the first day, but I think it worked in our favour that we got the extra game because we have a young team. A lot of lads would have benefited, even myself. I'm 22 but there are younger lads than me.
"I'm nearly one of the more experienced campaigners now, I'm there two or three years. But it's the young lads and the debutants this year that need games under their belt."
Still in the championship and the Galway races in full swing, the Tribesmen will be expected to account for Tipperary on Sunday and join the county's hurlers in the last four in the race for All-Ireland honours.
But to do so they will have to earn a long overdue win in Croke Park. They haven't left HQ with a victory in 11 attempts in league or championship since the 2001 All-Ireland final when manager Walsh lined out at midfield.
"I would have been seven (in 2001). I don't have much memories of it. To be honest I remember more of the celebrations than I do of the game but it was a great year for Galway football.
"Even 2000 as well, I vaguely remember that draw and the loss against Kerry. We're looking to make our own history. We've looked up to them lads for years and it's nice to be back in Croker again and hopefully we can overturn that."
"The win over Mayo obviously and winning the Connacht title obviously has instilled great confidence in a young Galway side.
"We haven't won here in 15 years. We've broken records already this year so that's one we'll hope to break again on Sunday but, look it, we're a young team.
"We're building. We're not the finished article yet. We've got a lot to work on, a lot to improve on, but definitely we'd be hoping to overcome that on Sunday."