Monday 16 July 2018

'It was important to show who we are,' says Walsh as his team continue fine form

Galway manager Kevin Walsh celebrates with his captain Damien Comer after their Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship victory. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Galway manager Kevin Walsh celebrates with his captain Damien Comer after their Connacht GAA Football Senior Championship victory. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The suspicion that Galway were going to fail to deliver on the big day lingered around Dr Hyde Park for longer than manager Kevin Walsh would have liked.

At their media event last week, Gareth Bradshaw acknowledged that Galway have form in that regard. It's only 12 months since they lost a Connacht final to Roscommon by nine points. A year before that they were turned over in Croke Park by Tipperary in an All-Ireland quarter-final. And those who travelled to Roscommon yesterday wondered if Galway would fall flat once more.

As it turned out, Walsh's side, aided by some poor Roscommon shooting, timed their run perfectly despite a poor first half.

"I'd say there was probably about five handpasses from two yards given away in the first half, and turnovers like that, a team like Roscommon, they're lovely ball players, you can't afford that at this level," Walsh reflected. 

"Were we off-colour? Of course we were off-colour at that point. That's something we addressed at half-time. But, in the long run, it's probably a good thing to experience - that these boys had to knuckle down and dig back deep. And when the penalty came again after going two points up … it was hard work to go two points up, and on the sideline it's tough when those things happen. But in fairness you put your faith in the lads and it's a good experience now to have to dig that out.

"Look it, we've found our way out of holes in the past as well. I know everyone keeps coming back to the one or two bad performances in the last three years. There were a lot of good performances out there too."

The Tribesmen didn't lead until the 69th minute when Damien Comer fired over his first score of the game. The Galway captain had been well marshalled by Niall McInerney to the point but that score signalled that Roscommon's number was up. Galway kicked the last four points of the day to secure Connacht title number 46.

The numbers make for bad reading for Roscommon. They seemed to have figured Galway out in the first half but on the restart they struggled for any sort of traction despite playing with the breeze. By the time referee David Coldrick brought things to an end, they had kicked 13 wides and dropped a few more into Ruairi Lavelle's hands, while they failed to score from play in the second half.

Roscommon hit just 1-1 after the restart and went a full 25 minutes without scoring between Diarmuid Murtagh's free shortly after half-time and Conor Devaney's brilliantly-executed penalty as they were left to rue their missed chance.

"That's it they (the wides) just drained us," Roscommon manager Kevin McStay stated.

"Even when we got the penalty you think right here we got a shot but we followed it up with two bungled chances that just didn't let us build momentum or kick on.

"If we had got to three or four (ahead) I've no doubt we would have really put it up to Galway because they weren't playing that well.

"The first half was very flat and was perfection for us. That was exactly what we wanted to do but the second half wasn't anything near what we had hoped.

"It's not heartbreaking, it's frustrating," he continued.

"We are going to look back and think we had the chances. We won't be thinking it we know we had the chances but Galway were able push it home that bit more clinically at the end so I have to commend them and congratulate them and I have done.

"We have to look at the positives and say that because we stayed competitive to the 34th or 35th minute (of the second half) that there must be some life for us beyond today."

For Walsh, one of the most pleasing aspects was his side's ability to dig out a result even when things went against them early on.

"(That comes from) experience, work and one or two youths coming in without fear. And the older fellas learning a lot more than what they'd learned in the past. Work-rate. You name it - there's loads of things there. Sometimes it won't work for you; sometimes it will. But you have to give yourself a chance, and in fairness they gave themselves a chance." 

Galway march on. The league final defeat to Dublin remains the only blot on their copybook this season as they became the first team into the 'Super 8s'.

"It was important, particularly after last year. I won't go behind the curtain on that but we really felt that we just didn't perform last year. I know Roscommon were very good but a nine-point defeat isn't where this team are at.

"So it was important here to show who we are. If we were beaten by a better team on the day, so be it. But now we're the first team to make it to the Super 8s so maybe it's a bit of legacy in itself.

"At the same time, we're still young, we're still trying to learn from all these teams. We're into the Super 8s now and we'll have a few weeks' break, which is nice. We're back to club football at the weekend. These lads just want to get better. We had a bad first half but we got better on the second half and we'll assess that better on Tuesday night."

Roscommon will have to dust themselves down for a round four qualifier on the weekend of July 7/8 and McStay is confident his side will find a response.

"I have a feeling we'll react well, because we have to react well. If we don't react well, lads at the end of their careers (might) start drifting away, management wonder where are we now and can we build on this?

"We have to get something out of the championship season. Coming into it back in April, we said we have to win two championship matches this season.

"Today was our big chance to win two. We've lost so now we have to win the next one. If we win two championship matches this season we'll be able to reflect on a good season because it means we're in the Super 8'."

Irish Independent

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