Thursday 23 May 2019

O'Donnell happy for Tribe to pick substance over style

Galway's Gary O'Donnell. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway's Gary O'Donnell. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When it comes down to it, Galway's Gary O'Donnell will always choose substance over style.

He has been involved in the Tribesmen's set-up since 2009 and has seen enough underwhelming days to know when the ship is sailing in the right direction under Kevin Walsh, even if their approach hasn't always been met with approval from the style council.

For him, the argument around Galway's approach has to be taken in the context of what came before.

In his opening three seasons with the Tribesmen he worked under three different managers.

He was first called in by Liam Sammon before Joe Kernan and Tomás Ó Flatharta lasted just a season each and then Alan Mulholland offered some consistency when he took charge for three seasons.

He's been part of a Galway side that suffered a record championship defeat to Mayo in 2013 and was there for a part of their dreadful run that saw them fail to win a qualifier game from 2004 to 2013.

The Tuam Stars man played for eight seasons before he won his first Connacht title.

Choosing function over form is a straightforward choice for him.

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O'Donnell points out that Galway, under Walsh, have gone from being Division 2 also-rans to an established top-flight team who contested an All-Ireland semi-final last season.

Year on year there have been building blocks laid and milestones passed. It might not be coming quick enough for some but O'Donnell believes they are building something to last.

"Four or five years ago we were back down the pecking order, Division 2, struggling at times, but we weren't going to be competing for All-Irelands within a year. Now the principles and structures and ideals are in place, and we've blooded new players, built a big panel, and that was the plan.

"Since the management came in they've ticked all the boxes, steady progression every year, and yes, the most disappointing thing is always your last game, and maybe we haven't always exited the way we wanted in big games."

With the forwards Galway have, the argument is that they should play on the front foot more often.

"Sometimes people look at Galway, one of the traditional counties, playing a lovely brand of football and so on, but you cut your cloth to measure sometimes, and we came from an area way down the pecking order, not competing in Connacht, playing Division 2 football and so on.

"So we had to progress as best we could, Kevin has come in, and we've ticked a lot of boxes along the way.

"At the same time it's a results business, we made the All-Ireland semi-final for the first time last summer after a long time, and the main aim is to get there again and learn from our lessons from last year.

"At the end of the day if you ask people about style of play or results, a player will tell you all day they want to win games.

Sacrifice

"Sometimes you might have to sacrifice the spectacle of a game or whatever it is, we don't go out intentionally to play in any way negative at all.

"A lot of the time we put up big scores and even if we don't put up big scores maybe it's because we'd missed a lot of chances."

And he insists that Galway don't just stick rigidly to one system.

"We'd be very naive to think every team is going gung-ho for games.

"Any teams we play against play similar to us at times. We don't have one style of play, we have a number of different ways we want to play be it the opposition or be it the way we are going at the time, so on and so forth.

"I know a lot of teams are exactly the same, it's not a matter that you go out and are packing the defence for 70 minutes or anything like that.

"Weather conditions are a big issue, particularly where we play in Pearse Stadium as well, so there are a lot of different plans that we have.

"And whichever one is suitable on the day we go with that."

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