Galway boss Kevin Walsh doing his best to block out criticism from 'lazy pundits'
Kevin Walsh has expressed satisfaction that his emerging Galway team have stood up to a series of stern physical examinations during their first Allianz Division 1 league campaign for seven years, something he feels will stand to them as the season progresses.
But he says they have yet to prove if they can absorb that type of approach at the business end of a championship.
Walsh, speaking at the launch of the Connacht championship at the province's headquarters in Bekan, outside Ballyhaunis, has also hit out a "lazy pundits" who can create, what he feels, is the wrong perception about team like theirs.
Walsh's Galway have come under an intense spotlight for their more defensive approach this year but the manager insists that it has been 36 months in the making and not just an overnight shift in direction.
His team conceded just one goal in eight Division 1 games, late on against Monaghan.
"When I came in here, our first FBD final (2015), it was something like four goals (conceded), and it could have been four more.
"There was obviously a lot of leakage and before that there was a lot of goals going in as well.
"It's something we would have certainly gone after from day one. I'm not saying stop goals, but to get defensively strong.
"There's a bigger part of the game than just defence, so it's improving all the way, albeit it did take some gutsy saves at times to keep out goals.
"But you're always going to concede goal chances. If we can minimise the amount of goal chances, it gives you a better chance."
Some of the analysis of his team irks him and creates the wrong impression, he feels.
"It's important that we, as managers, try to isolate ourselves and not to get sucked into perceptions that are out there, maybe by some lazy work by some pundits. It's important that I take clear stock of what the year is like, and we go from there.
"The point I'm making is perception is reality and if someone who throws out some stuff that's not a fact and without homework being done, it can affect how people think.
"So it's important that I put all that type of stuff away and not listen to the outside stuff, to analyse it properly."
As to whether there is an impact on players from such commentary is down to the player himself, he feels.
"Some people thrive on it, some people I suppose don't hear it and others maybe feel pressurised but that's part of today's world, you just can't stop that.
"We analyse games every Tuesday night for our own reasons and if it suits us at certain times to be defensive we will do that but to be fair Dublin are quite good at what they do and it is up to us to learn how to push on without making too many mistakes in the process."
What he is satisfied with is how they stood up to a more intense approach from opponents during the league.
In five of the eight games opponents had players sent off against them while in two, Mayo and Dublin, members of the opposition picked up eight-week bans for minor physical interference with one of their players.
"It is Division 1 and you'd expect no different," admitted Walsh.
"The fact that our lads are learning to stand up for themselves in that company is good and maybe when you are a young team trying to come through then you are going to be looked at a bit closer. Whereas the guys who are on top all of the time, they bring the intensity all of the time to the games and they get applauded for it.
"What we are trying to do is get to that level, even though we've a long way to go.
"We have Division 1 behind us, which should be a help, but to bring the intensity that Kerry, Dublin, Tyrone, Mayo, Monaghan have, that they bring every day, we haven't proven that yet. So we're hoping we can stick with it."
That this Connacht quarter-final is being touted as potentially one of the most physical games on the calendar underlines how far Galway have come since the middle of the decade when their rivalry was looked at in a different light.
Walsh's experience as a player was that Galway-Mayo games always had that physical edge.
"I suppose if you go back three or four years ago, maybe the expectation wasn't there at all for Galway to perform or even compete," he said.
"But that's something that has probably changed in the last two or three years, which is good for us.
"Mayo are still going to be favourites below in their own patch. Go back to when the teams were very close together, one or two-point games which I was in as a player myself, those games were quite physical.
"They were always going to be physical because you had a man to mark and hopefully you were going to walk off there and say you got the better of him.
"I think when the teams are coming a bit closer to each other in relation to expectation, you are always going to have a high-intensity game."
Walsh admitted the 2017 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Kerry was "tough to take" but recalled up to four goals chances that weren't taken as being a factor.
"Maybe we did also feel that the intensity wasn't at a high enough standard to actually beat Kerry on the day," he said.
"I suppose a young team had been through a massive league campaign, which had a lot more pressure than this year, because expectation was for ourselves, for the first time that we need to get promoted.
"We lost a game to Meath with a late goal, and it put a lot of pressure on the last three or four games of the league.
"And then we came up with never winning a game in Croke Park for so long, and we played Kildare and of course we had to win that.
"Then we played Mayo and had to prove the Mayo win in 2016 wasn't a fluke.
"All these games were coming on top of us, and there was a lot of pressure being put on the panel. The pressure wasn't as high in the league this year because of the expectation."