Walsh looking to build on solid Sligo foundations
WITH a season of near misses and moral victories behind them, Sligo boss Kevin Walsh has urged his side to kick on from the progress made last year.
The Yeats men came within a whisker of beating both Galway and Kerry in the championship last year, with only a late penalty miss from David Kelly denying them a famous win in Tralee.
A successful Division 4 campaign, that included a final victory over Antrim -- who themselves would have a memorable summer -- underlined Sligo's potential but Walsh wants more from his side this season.
Sligo were due to start their campaign with a trip to Tuam to face the Tribesmen in the FBD League on Sunday, but all fixtures out west have been postponed.
Galwayman Walsh might have been in charge of his native county this season, having been linked to the post before Joe Kernan took charge. However, he insists leaving Sligo was never on the cards.
"I was always committed to Sligo," he stated. "After the effort that was given by the lads last year, that was the way it was always going to be. They done quite well last year and you'd have to give it another go."
Galway hit 1-1 in injury time to dump Walsh's men out of the Connacht championship last summer.
The performance in that game was enough to convince Walsh that they could be competitive in the back door. They regrouped to beat Tipperary a fortnight later before they faced what looked like a daunting trip to the Kingdom.
And if the loss to Galway was galling, the defeat to Kerry will forever stick in Sligo throats. Their moral victory was of little consolation but Walsh wants his side to gain confidence from coming so close to beating the eventual All-Ireland champions.
"Looking back at that game now I'm hoping that we'll learn from it," Walsh recalled. "The lads can take a bit of confidence from knowing that they are a better team than a lot of people gave them credit for.
"We went down to Kerry to win that game. That might sound cracked, but we were going well enough last year. The moral victory at the time didn't feel like much but we came so close and we will try and take something from it."
Walsh faces a minor rebuilding task for 2010. Michael McNamara and Paul McGovern are out of the country while Kevin Cryan and Pat Naughton are also unavailable.
The harsh weather conditions mean Walsh is behind in terms of unearthing new talent, which he is convinced is in the county.
"I'd be hoping that three or four fellas might push on but having said that there are a few players gone, including a lot of defenders. There'll be more experimentation than I expected. I thought I'd have a few trial games done at this stage which didn't happen so we might have to do a bit of that in the FBD.
"Last year shows us that we can compete at least. But you can't live on those memories, you have to go out and make it happen."
Connacht isn't the only province affected by the cold snap, with the training schedules of most county teams being disrupted. Wicklow boss Mick O'Dwyer has encountered massive problems with his preparations and is unlikely to have had one fully attended training session before Sunday's O'Byrne Cup clash with Louth.
The Waterville maestro had hoped to get things under way with a session in Shillelagh last Sunday, but that had to be abandoned.
He did manage to have a session on Tuesday night but it was sparsely attended, with many panelists unable to tackle the snow and frost-ridden roads.
Training is organised for Newtownmountkennedy tonight but, again, it is considered unlikely that players from the south of the county in particular will be able to make it across the mountains.
"Right now the pitch in Baltinglass is covered in snow -- but if it does go ahead, it will be the first time the group has come together," said the team's liaison officer, Martin Coleman.