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'It's very frustrating' - Galway's Shane Walsh insists cynicism in football is still paying off

Tribes football captain calls for greater vigilance


John West Féile Ambassador and Galway Footballer Shane Walsh in attendance at the launch of John West Féile, 2021 at Croke Park in Dublin.

John West Féile Ambassador and Galway Footballer Shane Walsh in attendance at the launch of John West Féile, 2021 at Croke Park in Dublin.

John West Féile Ambassador and Galway Footballer Shane Walsh in attendance at the launch of John West Féile, 2021 at Croke Park in Dublin.

Shane Walsh has revealed the extent of the injuries he sustained in the Connacht football final last July that left him in a sling and sidelined him for the following eight weeks with a broken bone and torn ligaments in the shoulder.

Just after setting up a goal for a goal for Damien Comer with an electrifying run, having scored a goal earlier in the half as Galway established a five-point interval lead, Walsh ended up on the ground after a coming together with a Mayo player.

GAA disciplinary authorities did not have sufficient video footage to lay any charge and Walsh played on but to little effect as they collapsed in the second half.

In hindsight, he acknowledged now that he shouldn’t have played but the outcome has left him renewing calls for a form of television match official (TMO) to root out such incidents and protect skilful players. Walsh admitted the whole incident and its aftermath was frustrating as he missed the opening round of his club Kilkerrin Clonberne’s championship campaign.

“I’d probably be one who would be in favour of a TMO coming into GAA because there is an awful lot of stuff like that going on. For me, it’s very frustrating,” said the Tribe captain.

“Your championship game is taken away from you in a couple of seconds. In fairness, if it happens on the ball, you’re unlucky and it happens. But it wasn’t on the ball.

“When I put my hand across as he (Mayo opponent) was running out, he was the one who initiated the grabbing of me and bringing me to the ground. It happened so quickly and I was tired at the time.

"I was after running for the second goal. Just, there needs to be more done because there are linesmen there. Refs need support in games. It’s very hard. The game is moving so quickly.

“There is all this structure talk and rule changes but refs have to deal with all of that, keep the flow of the game and then watching what else is going on around them.”

The incident left manager Pádraic Joyce, ratified for a third year after a review with Cian O’Neill added as a coach, angry afterwards. Walsh feels players shouldn’t be allowed to get away with such cynicism and promoted the possibility of video assistance.

“Generally speaking, you’re trying to cut out that cynical play in games. It’s happening all the time. On the ball it’s more obvious whereas off the ball stuff is hard to spot. But you need to cut that out as well because young kids, they see that now and they replicate everything.

“You see under-8s and 9s in my own club and they’d nearly be simulating diving because they see soccer players on TV at it, a case of two players going for a ball and rolling on the ground if they don’t win it, holding their face nearly. I’m shocked.

“There is scope there. At the end of the day, players have to be looked after.

“It’s all about player welfare. The GAA has to be doing their best to make sure the players are looked after. They are the ones taking to the pitch. You want the best ones doing that.”

Walsh senses a more cynical game since his introduction to senior level in 2013. And as one of the game’s more flamboyant performers, he’s often a marked man.

“There’s definitely more of a cynical edge to the game now than there was when I first started off. Maybe that’s Galway’s flaw, I’m not sure. I don’t believe so, but football is there to be played. You can play it hard and fast, but there are certain elements to the game that don’t need to be there.

“It was highlighted a couple of years ago, I know Seán Cavanagh became the victim of it, in relation to the black card tackle. But he was the player (then), if any other player was in that position he’d be thinking the same thing, rather than saying, ‘I’m going to stand him up’.

“People say maybe I’m too pure-minded in relation to thinking like that, but we weren’t coached to foul. Like when I was younger I was never coached to pull a lad to the ground or to hit a belt to a lad off the ball. You were coached to tackle the ball, your hands on the ball, and you back yourself.

“And we’d have done a lot of work with Kevin (Walsh) in relation to footwork, putting your feet in the right position, because at the end of the day it should work, that’s the way football should be played.”

Walsh has acknowledged that the last three years, since they reached an All-Ireland semi-final, has not been good for them but is optimistic that they can build on what they have, citing Tyrone’s leap from the pack this year.

“There is no point in giving out about where we have got to in the last couple of years,” he said.

“Obviously we haven’t got to where we would like to. But at the same time next year is a new opportunity. There are new players getting involved. All of a sudden, who knows that 2022 will look like. At the start of the year, who would have said Tyrone would win an All-Ireland. Tyrone might have said it themselves but outside of that, you can see the media weren’t giving them much scope for it and they proved everyone wrong. That was a credit to them.”

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