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Hoare soars as Walsh's Tribe make bright start to year

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Eddie Hoare, Galway, score's a late point during the game against Sligo

Eddie Hoare, Galway, score's a late point during the game against Sligo

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Stephen Gilmartin, Sligo, in action against Sean Denvir, Galway

Stephen Gilmartin, Sligo, in action against Sean Denvir, Galway

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Sean Denvir, Galway, in action against Ross Donovan, Sligo

Sean Denvir, Galway, in action against Ross Donovan, Sligo

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Eddie Hoare, Galway, in action against Damien O'Boyle, left, and Kenneth Sweeney, Sligo

Eddie Hoare, Galway, in action against Damien O'Boyle, left, and Kenneth Sweeney, Sligo

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Gary Cadden, Sligo, in action against Gary Sice, Galway

Gary Cadden, Sligo, in action against Gary Sice, Galway

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Eddie Hoare, Galway, score's a late point during the game against Sligo

Kevin Walsh has long been regarded as a natural fit to manage his native Galway and he certainly got his new job off to an impressive start in windswept Enniscrone yesterday.

His first win, ironically, came at the expense of the county he managed to two Connacht finals but even Walsh admitted he didn't recognise half of yesterday's opponents as Sligo started with seven debutants, five of them in defence.

Losing full-back Johnny Martyn before throw-in to a tight hamstring didn't help new Sligo boss Niall Carew who was already severely understrength.

But, even withstanding their big-name absentees, this dismal season-opener, to borrow a phrase from Lucinda Creighton and Co, only underlined what a tough job the Kildare man faces in his efforts to "re-boot" the Yeats County's footballers in 2015.

At half-time they trailed by seven (0-9 to 0-2) but, having played into the teeth of a gale in the scenic surrounds, there was still a glimmer of hope that they might benefit from having it at their back.

The sight of experienced Mark Breheny arriving off the bench to re-start and immediately scoring an excellent free from 50 yards out - Sligo's first score since the fifth minute - increased it but that flicker of hope was brief and swiftly extinguished. But by the end of the third quarter the gap had extended to nine and, even against the gale, Galway continued to dominate possession and scoring chances and totally underlined the difference in class between the sides.

Full-forward Eddie Hoare, who broke into their starters last season and has since contested a county final with city side St Michael's, was the star of the Galway show with 0-7 (4fs).

Michael Martin wasn't far behind with some terrific scores and great work rate, while Fiontain O Curraoin and newcomer Enda Tierney completely dominated midfield.

The other big talking point was that Gary Sice, Ian Burke and Liam Silke of Corofin actually started for Galway.

But Walsh confirmed afterwards that the contingent from the Connacht club champions have just been back on an early-season bonding mission and, from here on, will be concentrating on the club's efforts to win another All-Ireland club title, so they won't figure in the coming weeks.

Perspective

Given that he held Shane Walsh in reserve and was without college-tied players like the Varleys, Damien Comer and the injured Paul Conroy and Johnny Duane, he was delighted to get his new job off to a such a flying start but kept things firmly in perspective.

"It was the start we wanted and nice to get a result but we know that isn't Sligo's strongest team either, we won't cod ourselves on that one," Walsh said sagely.

Galway started with five newcomers themselves, including Silke, David Walsh and Paddy Naughton in defence.

None disappointed but life was made a lot easier for them by the amount of calm experience surrounding and supporting them, like Gareth Bradshaw at centre-back and their particularly strong half-forward line of Martin, Sice and Sean Denvir.

Even Walsh accepted that his side's handling and fitness looked streets ahead.

"We overdid things and took the wrong options at times but one thing I did like was that we finished off the game very strongly. We moved the ball in hand and nobody seemed to be wilting but it's early doors," he stressed ahead of next week's clash with Leitrim.

He could afford to run his bench, including switching goalkeepers at half-time, and is hopeful of getting Paul Conroy back in the coming weeks, though not in time for any FBD action.

"Paul got hurt at the Aussie Rules trials, he had an operation there before Christmas and is recovering well but whether he makes the start of the league or not is debatable," he said.

"If he is back the week before the league, he will push for a place. If not, it will be after the first two games."

Sligo's changes were much more of an emergency nature and Carew's first outing on the Wild Atlantic Way was certainly no picnic.

Wing-back Gary Cadden was the best of their newcomers and Stephen Gilmartin and Kenneth Sweeney were two who have returned to the county colours and started, with the former more prominent.

They improved a little with the introduction of Breheny and Pat Hughes in the second half but, collectively, their marking and distribution was worryingly inept at times.

Scoring just five times, and only two times from play, was particularly worrying, as was their inability to harness the conditions to their advantage when they had them, or to tighten up defensively.

There may only be one division between them in league terms but even at the start of the season Galway looked a class apart from them yesterday in terms of handling and sharpness.

Starting the year without the likes of Charlie Harrison, Brendan Egan, David Kelly, Keelan Cawley and Brian Curran does not help as it leaves Sligo's newcomers and new management without a lot of key experience.

"I'd have liked to introduce maybe three lads at a time in the FBD but, with 12 injuries and without so many players, that hasn't been possible," Carew said.

"Next week we'll give another four or five lads a run again and everyone will get a chance in matches and in training. I'd just like to have more experienced players in there to play alongside them and give them a better opportunity to settle in," he admitted.

It is a quandary that more than Sligo will have to face in the coming months but that still doesn't make it any easier.

"We'll just have to knuckle down and make sure we're ready for the first round of the league, against Limerick," Carew said. "I'm sure Kevin would say the same thing, that you'd always swap a win in the FBD for two points in the league and that will be our priority.

"Getting the lads to play with the choke out is the big thing for us, getting them to perform consistently above their comfort-zone, that will be the priority."

Scorers - Galway: E Hoare 0-7 (4fs), M Martin 0-5 (1f), F O'Curraoin 0-2. Sligo: A Marren 0-3 (2fs), S Stenson 0-1, M Breheny 0-1(f).

Galway - B O'Donoghue; P Naughton, D Walsh, D O'Neill; L Silke, G Bradshaw, K Kelly; F O Curraoin, E Tierney; G Sice, M Martin, S Denvir; N Walsh, E Hoare, I Burke. Subs: TJ Forde for O'Donoghue (31), D Cummins for N Walsh (45), C Sweeney for Kelly (55), C Forde for Naughton (58), M Coady for Burke (59), F Breathnach for Hoare (60).

Sligo - A Devaney; E Flanagan, B McGarry, D Maye; R Donovan, N Gaughan, G Cadden; S Gilmartin, D O'Boyle; S Stenson, H Marren, N Ewing; P Clarke, A Marren, K Sweeney. Subs: M Breheny for H Marren (h-t), B O'Mahony for Clarke (41), P Hughes for O'Boyle (41), N McDonagh for Stenson (56).

Ref - P Neilan (Roscommon)

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