Wednesday 21 February 2018

Shane Walsh's upbeat comments will offer huge hope to Galway fans

Shane Walsh, Galway, in action against Mark Craig, Derry. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Shane Walsh, Galway, in action against Mark Craig, Derry. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Galway's Shane Walsh. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The general consensus is that with promotion to the top tier achieved, the stakes aren't that high in Sunday's Allianz Division 2 final against Kildare, but for Galway's Shane Walsh it's another opportunity to break his Croke Park duck in all grades.

As a nipper, Walsh marvelled at the magic produced by Pádraic Joyce and Co as the Tribesmen scaled the heights, lifting Sam Maguire in 1998 and 2001, but amazingly they have not managed to record a win at GAA HQ in the 16 years that have followed.

With Mayo dominating the Connacht scene, Galway have endured a barren spell, but Kevin Walsh's managerial reign has sparked a change in fortunes, and while they are far from the finished article, some important building blocks have been laid.

"We're progressing nicely," said Shane Walsh. "Kevin always says 'you are where you deserve to be' and over the last few years we've shown that - we've flattered to deceive in many games.

"Looking back over this League, it's a great position to be in knowing that we lost one game by a point, drew a game, and won the rest.

"It reflects on a very positive League campaign and the hard work we've put in, and Kevin has reiterated that if we can stick to what he's trying to put in place for us, there's no reason why we can't do well up in Division 1.

"That's where we see ourselves. This team is learning every day and that's a great place to be in."

Walsh has been central to Galway's rise, providing flair from centre-forward, and he credits much of the change out west to his manager's decision to go "back to basics" - putting a plan in place and then sticking to it, unlike previous years.

"When Galway teams have lost games we'd tend to change our plans as the year has gone on and it can lead to very inconsistent performances," said the Kilkerrin-Clonberne man, a 2014 Young Footballer of the Year nominee.

"Kevin has really reiterated what we're trying to do and it's working when we stick to it."

Kevin Walsh spoke last year about 50 players refusing to commit to the Galway squad, but with a Connacht title, promotion to Division 1 and a greater consistency achieved thus far, the mood has noticeably shifted.

"There's a lot more positivity around Galway," said Shane Walsh. "In our dressing-room especially there's such a good vibe. It's a great dressing-room to be in because everyone is looking forward to going training.

"The players that haven't come in, they'd be looking at it and saying, 'that's our chance missed'. For any player that doesn't come in, I think that's always the thing… it's the best way to show them, by trying to be as successful as we can.

"Every player has their own reasons for not joining a panel. We can't control that. We can control what goes on inside our dressing-room. At the moment it's very positive, that's the kind of players that we want in the dressing-room."

One such player breeding positivity into the panel is Michael Meehan, who has made a surprising return after three years out due to a chronic ankle injury; having played alongside him in his debut season in 2013, Walsh was delighted with his U-turn and sees no reason why he can't make an impact if fit.

"Mikey is a machine," he said. "There's no limits to what he can do. In club football, he's been ripping it up so there's absolutely no reason why he can't do it. The man is blessed with so much ability that it would be a sin for him nearly not to try.

Crack

"He's giving it a crack. I have no doubt that if Mikey gets the good training under him, he'll be back in. He's not someone you want coming breathing down behind you for a place in the team."

It's "too early to decide" whether he will be used as starter or impact sub, but Walsh insists that Meehan is taking part in the same training as the rest of the squad and didn't rule out a cameo as they look to lift silverware this weekend.

"He's training away and if he keeps scoring goals the way he's doing it in training it'll be hard to keep him out," he said.

"He's pushing all the time. Maybe Sunday might be just a bit too soon for him to come back in but this week is a whole new week.

"We've had changes in the League and we've shown our squad depth in that we're a strong panel. So he could be in at the weekend, you wouldn't know. He's such a passionate man about football, he wants the best for the county and he'd love to be part of it.

"It's great to have him back. When he walked into the dressing-room, the place nearly froze just in awe of him."

Irish Independent

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