Thursday 18 January 2018

Divilly sees new leaders emerging in 'settled' Galway

John Divilly (SPORTSFILE)
John Divilly (SPORTSFILE)
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Galway are finally nurturing leaders in their team as the push for Division 1 football intensifies, their former centre-back John Divilly maintains.

Divilly, fresh from Sigerson Cup glory as manager of UCD last month, believes it is imperative for Galway to be a Division 1 team if they are to close the gap on Mayo in Connacht in the coming years.

And he cites the remarkable progress of Roscommon in the division as a further incentive to make the next two weekends count.

Fresh from a warm-weather training camp in Portugal last week, Galway's fate is in their own hands, with Fermanagh coming to Tuam this weekend before they travel to Kingspan Breffni Park for a game that could potentially determine who joins Tyrone as a top flight team in 2017.

Divilly likes the "settled feel" to the Galway team over first five League games. And the leadership roots puts down by the likes of Fiontan O Curraoin, Thomas Flynn and Paul Conroy have got deeper.

Manager Kevin Walsh has made just four match-to-match changes in five League games, replacing goalkeeper Thomas Healy with Manus Breathnach for the last three games, integrating Shane Walsh back in for the Derry game and also introducing Cathal Sweeney and Gary Sice for the trip to Armagh.

Draws with Meath and Armagh have checked their step but Divilly believes they are well placed to progress.

"I think we have found leaders in Galway because they have had to lead," said Divilly. "Those players have looked around and have found no-one else in front of them to grab them by the scruff of the neck and drive them on. And that's good for Galway.

"They're still young but they are now being looked up to by the younger players coming in and they have to take responsibility."

Divilly (pictured) likes the way the team have not panicked when they have fallen heavily behind to Meath, Armagh and even Tyrone.

"Last year we were building up decent half-time advantages but then losing them against the likes of Cavan and Down," he said.

"This year it's been the opposite. We've chased down big deficits against Meath and Armagh and got something from those games."

"If we are to position ourselves to put more pressure on Mayo in the coming years, we have to be a Division 1 team," he said.

"Roscommon have made that leap and survived and I feel Galway are capable of doing the same. There is an opportunity there the way results have fallen and it's up to Galway to go and take it over the next two weekends."

Galway lost Johnny Duane and Michael Lundy, who went to New York last year and have committed to the exiles for this year's Connacht Championship.

But Walsh has elevated the likes of Declan Kyne, David Wynne, Johnny Heaney and Eamonn Brannigan to make a smooth transition. Kyne, Wynne and Heaney are three of the five defenders who have started every game.

Divilly also feels an attacking axis based around Shane Walsh and Damien Comer can blossom in the coming years.

"Kevin hasn't pushed Shane back too quick. He has allowed his few niggles that he carried over from last year, especially his knee, to clear," he said.

"Now that the U-21s are out he might be able to bring in a few more. Peter Cooke is one I'll certainly be looking forward to seeing more of," he said.

Galway haven't been in Division 1 since 2011 but they came close to bouncing back up in 2012 when Kildare denied them in a last-gasp finish in Salthill.

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