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Plan A, B and C all in the mix for Rossies - Walsh

Galway football boss Kevin Walsh is looking forward to Sunday’s Connacht final against Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway football boss Kevin Walsh is looking forward to Sunday’s Connacht final against Roscommon. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Kevin Walsh arrives to the sun-kissed rooftop of the Loughrea Hotel and Spa, having just attended a breakfast with Roy Keane and the Galway Women's football club.

Perhaps the Galway manager was present to see what tips he could pick up from the Ireland assistant manager. Throughout his career in sport, he's pulled from various influences including his basketball background. As he would point out later in his interview: "It's something that's in the blood is to coach and to manage."

For now, though, Walsh is exactly where he wants to be. Galway are preparing for a Connacht final clash with Roscommon on Sunday following a 2018 campaign that, to date, has scarcely seen them take a backwards step.

The league saw them go unbeaten until the decider against Dublin. Then came the championship where they ground down one of the most streetwise teams around in Mayo before cutting loose and running up 4-24 against Sligo.

For Walsh, there's satisfaction that Galway delivered two very different performances with the same result, but naturally he's keeping the cards close to his chest about how they might shape up against the Rossies.

Purring

"You have plan A, B and C for different opposition and depending on what they turn up with," said the Galway manager. "You can have all the plans in the world and all of a sudden the opposition can throw you."

His side is purring just now but, on a personal level, this has been a long time in the making. Even before he picked up his first All-Ireland medal, Walsh had been coaching. In 1997, he was player manager of Killanin. They looked to have had Corofin beaten in the Galway championship before two late goals delivered a gut punch. Corofin would go on to win the All-Ireland club title the following St Patrick's Day.

So while his last role on the sideline before moving to the county scene was with the Aran Island footballers in the Galway JFC, he points out that when he was handed the Sligo job ahead of the 2009 season, it wasn't as left-field an appointment as many believed.

"I've been involved with teams from '94 all along every year with teams. It's something that's in the blood is to coach and to manage. When the Sligo thing came along, geographically it didn't make sense and I would have put that on the table to the powers that be at the time, but they were anxious enough that I would do it.

"We done it, it took a lot of time and I spent five years there which is a long time but was a great learning curve for me."

There's a buzz in coaching for Walsh. The game has evolved rapidly since he won All-Irelands with a swashbuckling Galway side in 1998 and 2001. Keeping up with that change is a huge part of the challenge.

"Certainly you probably wouldn't be allowed play the way we played. You'd have to adapt to it and of course if you had the right proper coaching and thought processes you'd have to adapt to it and work around what (suits) you.

"But certainly that type of work wasn't there at that time. But if you were to meet someone that was a well set-up team now, 15 or 20 years later, you'd find it hard to get through them."

In relation to sacrifices in the late '90s and early 2000s, the sacrifices aren't any bigger, training is not any harder, but I think the tactical and technical side of things has been upgraded. It was upgraded every year with technology and everything else and the level of coaching has gone much, much deeper. That's the biggest difference."

And Walsh believes the analysis of managers and teams has also kicked on to a new level.

"When I was finished as a player, I was ready to go long before that. I was quite happy. It wasn't the case of begging the management to stay in. I probably would have gone three years beforehand to be honest if the truth be known. Look, it's a different gig; it has its ups and downs.

"When you're winning there is a great buzz about it. Particularly now when it's so tactical when training ground moves come off, it's pleasing and you say, 'Well, that work was worth it'.

"As a player, you're doing your job and it was a one-to-one confrontation. I don't think you take as many hits as the management take... if things are going well it's a great place to be but if not it's challenging to be honest.

"With the way the media and social media has gone you're there to be hit and analysed. And you'd love it if all sectors were analysed so deeply. You wouldn't mind the analyser to be analysed as well; you wouldn't mind the referee to be analysed as well; and you wouldn't mind the reporters to be analysed as well.

"Because at a certain level if you keep making mistakes in what you say it's very easy to walk away and not write about it for another two weeks. Then someone else will write about us and that'll do your job. But if I don't do my job well I'm still out there Monday morning."

Irish Independent

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