Thursday 24 May 2018

Dubs can be beaten if you go toe to toe with them - Comer

Galway’s Damien Comer with his PwC GAA/GPA footballer of the month award for April. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Galway’s Damien Comer with his PwC GAA/GPA footballer of the month award for April. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Damien Comer admits to losing a little bit of hope in his first years with Galway.

An All-Ireland U-21 winner in 2013, he fell into the same trap as many young footballers coming into the senior grade and expected the good times to roll as they had in his underage days. It quickly became clear that they wouldn't.

"I suppose coming from the Galway U-21s, in my first year in a Galway jersey I won an All-Ireland," Comer said. "You nearly get a false sense of hope that it's going to be like that every year. But you quickly learn that it's not."

But since Kevin Walsh's appointment Galway have built slowly and steadily. Year one under Walsh saw consolidation. In year two they came to within a single win of a return to the top flight. Their third year saw them gain promotion and win a game in Croke Park - the Division 2 league final - for the first time since 2001. There's also been big wins over rivals Mayo and a Connacht title.

And after showing themselves to be very much at home in the top flight, Comer is back to where he began and making big plans for what Galway can achieve in the span of his career.

Honestly

"I think we can win an All-Ireland. Honestly, I wouldn't be playing football if I didn't think we could win an All-Ireland. I think the form that we've shown in the league can prove that we can go the distance with the big teams. That's obviously the aim. Whether it happens this year... if it doesn't happen this year, we're going to go for it again next year. Hopefully we'll have an All-Ireland by the end of my playing career anyway."

The evidence of the spring shows that is far from outlandish. Galway were back in the top flight and went unbeaten for seven games before losing narrowly to Dublin in a league decider. The teams had drawn in Salthill but Comer believes that going toe to toe in their back yard of Croke Park was a more significant performance.

"Coming into the game a lot of people maybe including ourselves would have been wary of it because Dublin have given trimmings to big teams on league final day and it has affected them going into the championship so that was in the back of our minds too to make sure that didn't happen.

"When you see that we had a really young team out and that they were able to stand up to the challenge I suppose on two different days in Pearse Stadium and in Croke Park against the All-Ireland champions it showed well for us and it does give us great confidence going into the championship."

Jim Gavin brought his side to the boil at just the right time for the All-Ireland final last year and many expect Dublin to improve significantly by the time the business end of the championship comes into view. And while Comer acknowledges they are the market leaders, he insists they can be beaten.

"There's no doubt they are a formidable side, they have shown that with their form and have won leagues and All-Ireland titles," he said as he was named the football PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for April with Tipperary's Jason Forde picking up the hurling award.

"They're there to be beaten. Monaghan beat them the week before we drew with them in Pearse Stadium and we probably had chances to beat them in Croker as well so they are there for the taking but you can't stand back and admire them."

The Annaghdown man also reckons that Mayo have shown how best to tackle Dublin.

"Mayo the last two years lost in very unfortunate circumstances, they were just a kick of the ball away. They should have won both games realistically but it didn't happen for them.

"But they attacked them and they were aggressive with them where a lot of teams stand back and admire them. If you do that to the Dubs they will destroy you, there is no other way about it. They are a formidable side but if you can go at them and go toe to toe then you have every chance of taking them."

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