Wednesday 12 December 2018

Peter Canavan: Tribe starting to look like Donegal under Jim McGuinness

Appointment of my former team-mate Paddy Tally is proving to be an inspired move by Galway

Ian Burke scores a goal for Galway against Sligo in a fine attacking performance. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ian Burke scores a goal for Galway against Sligo in a fine attacking performance. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Peter Canavan

It struck me that when Galway ran 4-24 past Sligo in the Connacht SFC semi-final, in a brilliant display of attacking football, there was no mention of Paddy Tally.

Tally's name has been brought up time and again when talk of Galway's new-found defensive solidity pops up.

When they went through the league unbeaten with a host of sparky defensive displays, Paddy's name was highlighted as being the man behind their organisation.

But when they ran in 4-21 from play last time out, there was no focus on him at all.

When Galway produce a brilliant attacking display, people seem to think it has nothing to do with him.

When it comes to flooding numbers behind the ball and the darker arts, we're told Paddy's fingerprints are all over them. But when it comes to the other end of the pitch, well, that's just Galway being Galway.

If it rained in Galway on race week, some people would probably blame Paddy Tally.

I played for Tyrone with Paddy. He was on the 1995 panel that reached the All-Ireland final.

Then, in 2003, he was part of the backroom team when we won the All-Ireland final. It's a testament to his ability as a coach and his character that he was able to go from being a team-mate of a few of us to our coach so seamlessly.

He has been in charge of the St Mary's Sigerson Cup team over the last 15 years, so he has extensive management experience.

From talking to those players, and from my own experiences of working with him, I can see he's carried over many of the same traits.


Paddy Tally. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Paddy Tally. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

His sessions were never repetitive. Even though you might be doing the same type of work, there would always be a different way of doing it.

He is a great student of the game too. He would always be up on the latest innovations in strength and conditioning and will take new things on board. And he's certainly not stuck on one particular style of play.

Because of the view of him as a defence-first coach, it might surprise a few to hear Paddy was an inside forward when he was with Tyrone and not a dogged corner-back.

He played much of his club football at centre-forward, so his natural instincts are to create rather than destroy.

But first and foremost he's a practical man and will cut his cloth to suit the players at his disposal.

It's long been known that Galway have the forwards that are the envy of many in the country.

Damien Comer and Shane Walsh are two of the most exciting players around and they have fine support acts in the likes of Eamonn Brannigan, Ian Burke and Michael Daly.

Kevin Walsh recognised that Galway needed to improve defensively and he started that process during the 2017 campaign. Last winter he saw that they needed a fresh view on things so he turned to Paddy. 

When he got there he would have known where Galway needed to improve most and that's where he would have started.

But for people to think he works purely on the defensive side is lazy or a label of convenience.  

To appoint Tally took a lot of humility on Walsh's part. It would have been easy for him to persevere with the way things were going and plough on with his own ideas. But he put Galway first and they are all the better for it.

Some would argue that he has gone too far with their system, that they play too defensively and if anything it can inhibit the natural talent up front.

I can see that argument but the bottom line is he is getting results. It's similar to the Donegal approach before they won the All-Ireland in 2012.

Back then, Jim McGuinness realised that he had to solidify things at the back first and make them hard to break down.

It was only then that they could be more proactive in terms of their attacking game. Remember they scored just 0-6 in an All-Ireland semi-final in 2011 but were All-Ireland champions a little over a year later. To my mind, Galway are moving along similar lines.

And while they have been brilliant this year, you feel there's still a little question mark over them because they have had a couple of off days over the past few seasons.

They didn't show up in last year's Connacht final loss to Roscommon. The year before that they went down to a Tipperary team they were tipped to beat in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

On Sunday they face a Roscommon side who have been planning for this game since the start of the year. When the draw was made, Kevin McStay's men could have reasonably expected to make it this far as they just needed a win over Leitrim or New York to reach another Connacht final.

They have the forwards to hurt Galway and, for me, there's still a small question mark over their consistency in the big games.

But I think Galway have shown a new maturity this year. They beat Mayo and Sligo playing in two very different ways. They can get down in the gutter or they can go man on man and I expect them to be the first team to book their spot in the 'Super 8s'.

Kilkenny are winners on and off the pitch

On Sky last weekend, we were covering the Tyrone-Meath game from Nowlan Park in Kilkenny ahead of their clash with Wexford. 

And from start to finish it was a brilliant day. The hospitality from everyone we met, from supporters to the stewards, was top-notch and we were given a tour of the excellent facilities they have there.

It was notable too that when an announcement asked for supporters to leave the players alone so they could complete their warm-down, it was obeyed.

After that they gave the kids as much access to their heroes as they wanted and they stayed around afterwards, happily pucking around. A great day was capped by a great game that was played at 100mph. Not for the first time Brian Cody sent the natives home happy. Well done to all involved.

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