Saturday 21 April 2018

Time has come for Galway to deliver - Conroy

Cavan's Killian Brady and Galway's Paul Conroy ahead of Sunday's showdownand. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cavan's Killian Brady and Galway's Paul Conroy ahead of Sunday's showdownand. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

In the early days of his inter-county career, Galway's Paul Conroy must have wondered what all he fuss was about.

In 2007, he steered Galway to a minor All-Ireland title and was fast-tracked to the senior side. The following July he helped them to a Connacht title, kicking a late point as they edged out Mayo. They went toe to toe with then All-Ireland champions Kerry in the rain in Croke Park a few weeks later.

Galway lost out that day but there was enough there to suggest that they could reasonably expect more good times ahead. Instead, the years have slipped by.

"The first year I came in we won Connacht in 2008 and we have not won it since and I suppose you start thinking that every year will be like this. But that has not been the way, Mayo have been dominant for the last few years," Conroy said.

Since then Galway have struggled for traction. They have chopped and changed managers with alarming regularity as they looked to restore themselves to the position they enjoyed around the turn of the millennium. Kevin Walsh is the fifth manager that Conroy has played under.

"When I was growing up we were in Connacht finals every year or every other year it seemed. And the fans when they look at it that way and see no success, someone has to pay for it," he said.

"It is important that you don't change your manager every year, that you allow structures be put in place and it is very hard to do that if you are chopping and changing your manager every year. You're then back at square one."

Conroy leads the Tribesmen into Sunday's do-or-die clash with Cavan. The mission couldn't be more straightforward. Win in Kingspan Breffni Park and Galway will play Division 1 football next year. Ironically, travelling to Cavan might suit Walsh's side a bit more as they haven't won any of their three home games in this year's league.

"I can't put my finger on that," Conroy replied when asked why Galway do better on the road. "We went away to Derry and won very convincingly and we've had a decent record away. I don't know why that is.

"We struggled with (home form) last year and it cost us. We lost to Laois in Tuam and to Cavan in Pearse Stadium. This year hasn't been great either. There's been two draws and we lost to Tyrone at home but hopefully that positive away form will continue on Sunday."

Sunday represents another chance to get back into the top flight. They came close back in 2012 but John Doyle's penalty with the last kick of the game secured a draw for Kildare and saw them go up at the expense of the Tribesmen. And if there was any doubt back then as to whether they were ready for the high-octane Division 1, Conroy believes his side have served their time now.

Struggled

"Maybe we weren't ready to move up. I'd like to think we are capable and ready to move up now."

The current Galway side is littered with All-Ireland winners at minor, U-21 and club level. They know better than most in Galway that that success won't necessarily translate to the senior stage but Conroy believes Walsh has put the necessary framework in place for the county to flourish.

"Maybe we only have four or five lads who have played in Division 1. The average age in the team is around 22 or 23, but most have been involved for a couple of years.

"They are relatively experienced. In fairness to them they've been doing fairly well winning two U-21s in the past couple of years. So it is time for us now to bring it to senior level."

Irish Independent

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