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Eugene McGee: Galway far too reliant on a dwindling pool of stars

The danger signs for Galway football have been clear for several years since their last All-Ireland win -- nearly a decade ago -- and in the first half of their game against Dublin in Pearse Stadium yesterday they were even clearer.

A tired looking collection of players, woeful tactical options, and anaemic forwards seemed part of a pattern all too familiar to their own fans in recent years with the odd honourable exception.

A Dublin team with an experienced attack and a naive defence were merely toying with the Galway team and the half-time score of 2-7 to 0-6 was a fair indication of the pathetic performance from the home team -- despite the presence of a good home following.

When great teams -- like Galway undoubtedly were at the turn of the century -- begin to slip, the signs of decay can be long and painful and so it has been with Galway footballers.

An over-dependence on great players like Padraic Joyce, Michael Meehan, Michael Donnellan and several others meant that when any of these slipped in performance or left the scene, the replacements were nowhere near the same level. Gradually the team changes from being special to ordinary and, in the case of some counties like Cavan or Offaly, the decline can last a lifetime.

Looking at Galway in the first half yesterday certainly reminded me of the fate of these once-powerful counties.

Unnecessary

For instance, Joe Bergin, one of Galway's better players, fielded a ball from the Dublin defence around 50 yards out but started messing in possession and Dublin scooped away the breaking ball to Pat Burke who scored Dublin's second goal. A totally unnecessary score to concede.

Time after time in that half Galway lofted the ball short into the Dublin goalkeeper's hands instead of advancing closer to goal for scores. In general, the attempts of the Galway players to cope with this modern massed defence approach of Dublin seemed to leave them stunned and confused, as time after time that defence won handy ball and had plenty of time to put their clearance work to constructive use.

And possibly most damning of all for Galway fans was the complete lack of physical commitment by their players -- in other words there wasn't a Galway player willing or able to give a man a wallop.

It is changed times indeed when we could see Dublin players throwing Galway opponents out of the way in a game in Pearse Stadium. And I won't even talk about the overuse of the handpass by Galway all over the field in that half.

Those people in Galway and beyond who were so quick to blame Joe Kernan at the end of last year should examine their football conscience too -- the reality is that Kernan did not have the material to produce a great team, then or now.

But football is a strange science and at half-time the roots of former great Galway stars may have spread a presence in the dressing-room to inspire because right from the restart Galway began to look like some of their great predecessors.

In particular, they began to compete with their opponents and shortly afterwards they had reduced the Dublin players to a team of shreds.

An astonishing eight successive points in the space of 20 minutes revolutionised this game and Dublin for all their vaunted forwards failed to score for 26 minutes. The main catalyst for the Galway revival was the arrival of Gareth Bradshaw, whom I presume was not started because of fitness problems after a recent injury.

I have long regarded this young player as their brightest prospect because he is cut from the same cloth of former outstanding Galway footballers: strong, fearless, skilful and with a never-say-die attitude. With a few more like him Galway might, just might, stave off the decline of recent years.

Dublin will probably get the benefit of the doubt for this chaotic performance and can redeem themselves and get out their best 15 when they play in the league final. Without Alan Brogan, of course, who fell foul of a linesman after just five minutes and saw a rather harsh red card.