Monday 24 October 2016

Walsh confident 'hardened' Tribesmen have closed gap on Mayo

Published 15/06/2016 | 02:30

Walsh; “It’s not ideal but we’ll have to make it work.” Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE
Walsh; “It’s not ideal but we’ll have to make it work.” Picture credit: Cody Glenn / SPORTSFILE

Having experienced it while in charge of Sligo, it's not new ground for Galway manager Kevin Walsh, but figuring out how to bridge the huge gap between League and Championship remains a conundrum.

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Eleven full weeks will have passed between games for Galway before they enter the Championship on Saturday night. For Walsh, six weeks would be the ideal run-in but by the time they start their summer against Mayo in Castlebar on Saturday night, the year will be over for two counties.

"It's not ideal, I think we're the last team out," Walsh said. "It's not ideal but we'll have to make it work."

Galway won't have played competitively since they lost in Kingspan Breffni Park in a straight shootout with Cavan for Division 1 football in 2017.

But Walsh suggests that given the form his side have shown, perhaps his team just weren't ready for the step up.

"The expectation is always for Galway to be in Division 1 anyway. We can maybe overstate or understate the importance of it, getting to Division 1," he said.

"But it's important that you are capable of being sustainable at that level rather than just hoping to get up and maybe not being ready for it.

"We probably lost points in certain parts of every game where there were ten-minute lulls, which cost us at times, including in the Cavan game."

Galway's home form remains unreliable questionable. They didn't manage a win in Galway in the League, and haven't won a game of any description since February when they beat Derry in Celtic Park. Even a switch to Tuam, which can sometimes bring more out of Galway teams, didn't help as they picked up one of their three draws against Fermanagh.

"People put too much in it (playing home games in Tuam), I think," said Walsh.

"Last year we had a very good performance against Kildare in Tuam but we also had a very poor performance against Laois in Tuam.

"This year we had a performance against Fermanagh, which wasn't great.

"It's just a case of a team becoming more consistent and more ruthless."

If anything, Galway are better away from home but it's not convincing enough to have the bookmakers offer anything more generous than 2/7 for the Tribesmen to emerge victorious from Castlebar on Saturday night.

While Mayo's win over Galway last year was the first time they had won five on the bounce against their great rivals since 1906, there were signs that Walsh's side were starting to close the gap.

"When we came in as management, there were two things we did strive to get. Firstly, consistency in performance - that every game we played without necessarily winning we would be competitive," said Walsh.

"And secondly we would develop a team that when they walked off the pitch you'd be hoping at least there would be no walkovers. That was something we wanted to tighten up a little bit."

Galway were level at half-time last year and while they eventually went down by three points, it was the closest they had been to Mayo since 2009.

More importantly their display was a million miles from the embarrassment of 2013, where they lost by 17 points, and 2014, where Mayo had seven to spare.

"Last year probably a few things went against us . . . I think the performance was actually better than what we got credit for on that day, and subsequently I think that showed up in our next number of matches, albeit maybe the last ten minutes against Donegal cost us.

"We were probably asked to go to the well too often for a team that weren't used to it, so that's something 12 months later I would expect would be improved on, that the team would be hardened a little bit, and game after game being able to sustain it a little bit better."

Only Saturday night will tell whether they are hardened enough to go toe to toe with one of the most streetwise teams around.

However, they'll have to do it without the injury-plagued Fiontán Ó Curraoin, who looks set to sit out the remainder of the campaign.

"We feel we did close the gap last year and we are a bit more structured than we had been in the past, albeit when it came down to it, Mayo finished the game out last year," said Walsh.

"That's something we do feel we've improved on."

Irish Independent

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