Galway have right age profile to make impact in west, says Meehan
Michael Meehan trained with his club Caltra one Wednesday evening recently. By the following Friday he was still feeling "stiff and sore", the legacy of an unfortunate ankle injury that has all but brought one of the most promising inter-county careers to an end.
Meehan has not yet completely accepted his fate to draw a line under a career that had so much going for it until a collision and awkward twist in a Connacht Championship match against Sligo almost five years ago sent him on a fruitless rehabilitative path.
If he can squeeze a few games out of Caltra this summer he'll be thankful, anything else he admits is "wishful thinking".
"For the long-term protection and function of the ankle there probably are procedures that would help but in the short term, there isn't anything that can be done," he said.
The reticence in him has perhaps diverted him from making a definitive call on a Galway future he suspended indefinitely in March 2014 when it became apparent his pain threshold for movement on the ankle had diminished.
Galway drive on without him. Last week they negotiated New York with a little more difficulty than they might have imagined; on Sunday it's Carrick-on-Shannon and Leitrim as a reshaped Connacht Championship has them out twice before a potential semi-final with Mayo.
Meehan can't recall Galway ever having to play four rounds to win a Connacht title. If it works out for them they'll have earned it as the western province has shaped up to pass both Munster and Leinster for competitiveness.
Meehan feels Galway and Roscommon may be closing the gap on Mayo but, for Galway, the scars of Salthill in 2013 still remain.
It was, arguably, his most difficult day in a Galway jersey. There were defeats to Sligo, Westmeath and Antrim before that hurt but nothing like the manner in which the roof caved in on them that day.
"It was because it was a local derby in a home venue," he recalled. "It was hard to take as a player, even for the supporters the rivalry, people living in Galway and Mayo. That fixture means a lot to everybody and we just didn't do ourselves or anyone justice.
"Realistically there was still a huge gap there last year. It closed on the year before but 2013 was just criminal having been involved in it."
Under Kevin Walsh, Meehan sees a Galway team defending better.
"If you were to look at nothing else but scores conceded in Division 2 as opposed to the last two or three years there is evidence there to suggest that. The defence is tighter.
"Kevin had to look at things coming in and that's maybe one area he felt that he could bring something to. A lot of new management teams do start with tightening things up at the back and work from there."
Meehan senses "an important year" for Galway football. The print of 2002 and 2005 All-Ireland-winning U-21 teams has faded and has been replaced by those involved with the successful 2011 and 2013 teams.
"The last two U-21 winning teams that have come through, a lot of those lads - players like Damien Comer - are involved and they are between the ages of 22 and 24.
"That's a good age to be a footballer and trying to push your team on to win things. You would expect that those lads under Kevin will respond and hopefully give a good account of themselves."
Michael Meehan is an EirGrid U-21 football ambassador.