Thursday 22 February 2018

'Galway are no longer a soft touch' - Lundy

Lundy:
Lundy: "Galway have got pushed around for years. The lads, in fairness to them, they’re starting to stand up." Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Anthony Daly famously proclaimed that Clare's hurlers were "no longer the whipping boys of Munster" after putting Tipperary to the sword in the 1997 provincial decider to banish memories of their oppression at the hands of the Premier.

It's hard to imagine any Galway footballer saying something similar about their changing fortunes against Mayo but from speaking with Michéal Lundy, the impression is definitely given that the Tribesmen reached a point where they finally had enough.

During Mayo's remarkable Connacht SFC five-in-a-row (2011-'15), the sides met on four occasions and there was an aggregate 31-point margin in favour of the men in green and red.

However, the dominance has been halted in recent seasons with Galway holding the Indian sign over their neighbours.

Despite Stephen Rochford's intimate knowledge of Galway club football, having guided Corofin to All-Ireland glory in 2015, the Mayo boss is yet to get a competitive victory over the Tribesmen with an abysmal 0-5 record since taking the reins.

With Corofin - who can call on All-Ireland SHC winner Dáithí Burke again - preparing for Saturday's AIB All-Ireland club SFC semi-final against Moorefield, Lundy has been watching from the outside as Kevin Walsh's side started life in the league's top tier in the best possible fashion.

Few would have predicted three wins from three but there's a harder edge to Galway now - embodied by their man mountain of a captain Damien Comer - and Lundy was delighted to see his county team-mates laying down another marker in Sunday's fiery defeat of Mayo.

"For years there, Mayo were beating Galway too easily. Now I think the tide is starting to turn hopefully. I literally only caught the end of it because we were training. It's always good fun when you beat Mayo. It's nice to see it. There was a bit of an edge to it too," Lundy said yesterday.

"I suppose it probably got a bit out of hand. But sometimes it's no harm, Galway have got pushed around for years. The lads, in fairness to them, they're starting to stand up. And they're doing it where it counts, they're doing it on the scoreboard, so that's the main thing really."

The notion that Galway were a soft touch "would be in the back of your mind" but with added physicality and the inclusion of several of last year's U-21 All-Ireland finalists, Galway are a different animal, with Lundy adamant that "it's not easy to push them around because it's easy for them to push back".

With the fires already stoked for their Connacht SFC quarter-final meeting, the Corofin captain acknowledges Sunday's victory over the old enemy "will mean nothing if you go and lose in May", but for now his eyes are fixed solely on club action.

The free-scoring forward has gone above and beyond the call of duty in the past two years, returning from 10 months in New York for the unfortunate passing of his grandmother before holding on to play in the latter stages of the Galway SFC final as he waited for his sister's wedding.

There had been advances from New York GAA to make a permanent move and switch county allegiance but the prospect of transferring away from Corofin was never a runner and following some encouragement from manager Kevin O'Brien, he was quickly "hooked" again en route to Connacht glory at the end of 2016.

He never returned to the US, instead taking the skipper's role as back-to-back provincial crowns were secured - miraculously remaining an integral part by scoring a goal in their gripping extra-time defeat of Castlebar Mitchels despite having his appendix out just 10 days previously.

Few would have contemplated playing a week and a half later but it was non-negotiable in Lundy's mind, despite the potential risks involved.

"I remember my GP coming in to me the next day and just asking him like, 'Is there a possibility of playing in, whatever, 10 days' time?' He was like, 'It's not impossible, we'll see how it goes, see how the swelling goes down and the bruising and how the stitches heal'," Lundy recalled.

Conscious

"I told Kevin, 'Don't rule me out'. I went training on the Friday just to get involved and I went for a quick run on the Thursday before it and felt all right at training on the Friday and he said, 'See how you get on in the warm-up'.

"I think he was a bit conscious of me, I just had to try and convince him that I was all right and luckily it paid off.

Lundy added: "I asked my GP what could happen and he said like, 'The scar could open and maybe a possible hernia'. I asked him, 'Is that bad?' And he said, 'No, it can be fixed'. If it could be fixed that's all I needed to know.

"All I wanted to know was could I play or couldn't I play and he kind of gave me a bit of confidence that I could play. I tested myself in the warm-up, I wasn't hiding away from a challenge because I wanted to get physical. The last thing I wanted to do was cost the team, ruin our chances."

His risk was rewarded so would he do it again?

"I'd definitely do it again. I look back on it and I'd make that decision 100 times over. It all worked out. I don't know was it a bit of luck or what but I'd do it again anyway, no problem."

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