Saturday 25 November 2017

Life of Brian on Tribal sideline proves to be as smooth as Silke

Brian Silke has seen and done it all
Brian Silke has seen and done it all

John Fallon

A first season of inter-county management is demanding at the best of times but when you have your son coming through to make his championship debut and your kid brother up in the press box analysing everything on the national airwaves, it cranks it all up a few notches.

But, as usual, Brian Silke is taking it all on his stride. An All-Ireland winner in 1998 when his brother Ray captained Galway to their first crown in 32 years, Brian has seen and done it all.

He returned to his native Corofin that year having enjoyed success with St Sylvester's in Dublin and while he missed out on their All-Ireland club glory that March, he went on to enjoy huge success with them both as a player and a manager.

A team-mate of Kevin Walsh when Galway won the All-Ireland minor title in 1986, he was drafted in along with Barna's Sean Conlon when the big Killannin man took charge last autumn.

It has proven to be a busy time. Getting a Galway squad up and running to try to end Mayo's dominance in Connacht has been one thing, but all the while Corofin have been motoring through the county and province, leading to their second All-Ireland title on St Patrick's Day.

Silke managed all those guys at various stages, including his sons Cathal and Liam, both of whom were key figures as the Galway champions beat all before them with some devastating displays.

Liam has already made the breakthrough to the Galway senior team - Cathal might not be far behind him - and it has added just another dimension to Brian's first season at inter-county level.

But, in keeping with philosophy which Walsh adopted from the start - if they are good enough, it doesn't matter who they are, what they have done or whether they are from a top senior club or a junior side - Liam Silke's performances for Corofin saw him called in and he made his championship debut in New York.

"It is not really that complicated because I have said to Kevin or Sean, 'you can deal with the Corofin guys and you can deal with Liam', because I know the lads quite well," says Brian Silke.

"Because you know lads at a different level, the difficulty with club is I know their parents and sometimes their grandparents. And please God I will know their kids, so it is very involved from a club perspective. So I have said to Kevin and Sean, any difficult decisions or anything here, you can deal with the lads.

"That is quite easy - I am not the manager so we can mix and match on that so that hasn't been that complicated from my son's perspective.

"But from my perspective, definitely at club level, they would have to have been 10pc better to be there because I am not going to pick someone because they are a relation of mine. They actually have to be a little bit better to make it easy to pick them."

The Corofin players have been integrated and the championship campaign got up and running with a 2-18 to 0-8 win in New York, despite a stomach bug hitting the squad after they arrived in the USA.

On Sunday they head to Carrick-on-Shannon, where Leitrim have ambushed them at underage level a couple of times in recent years, so nothing is being taken for granted.

"It is a quick focus back in. Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday is a major challenge and that is very much what we are now focused on," says Silke

"We really haven't looked any way beyond that because that is a huge challenge in itself. Leitrim have been taking down Galway underage teams in the last number of years. They will be very well organised and well managed, and Leitrim as a county are up and coming."

Galway's progress through the league, where they diced with relegation and flirted with promotion but remained in Division 2, was closely monitored in the county to see if the Tribesmen are poised to end their provincial famine which stretches back to 2008.

And, of course, nobody was watching it more closely than Brian's brother Ray. So what does it feel like to have a pundit in the family?

"Ray is going to have all the inside information, so what more can I say! No, family and business are two different things, Ray's business is punditry but we get on very well as a family thank God," he says.

It's all just another layer in the GAA family as another championship kicks off in earnest this weekend.

Irish Independent

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