Friday 22 February 2019

'We've got to keep moving and hopefully it's the right direction'

Walsh looks to take next step with Tribesmen's promising young side

Raising the bar: Galway forward Shane Walsh with the Allianz FL Division One trophy in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Raising the bar: Galway forward Shane Walsh with the Allianz FL Division One trophy in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Galway manager Kevin Walsh has a habit of referring to "end of year accounts" as a way of determining whether his side have hit their markers.

So when he sat down with his management team to dissect the 2018 season, he could only have been pleased at the broad picture he was presented with.

Unbeaten through the round robin stages of the league on their return to the top flight, a first win over Kerry in the championship since 1965 and an All-Ireland semi-final appearance, they laid more building blocks.

There's no doubt that over the course of Walsh's tenure, Galway have moved from dormant power to contenders once more.

And still, star forward Shane Walsh reckons there could have been more. He has no quibbles with their defeat to Dublin in their last four clash, only regrets that they didn't control what they could control in that game and come out with a higher conversion rate.

Chances

"To be honest, we probably played well in the first half and Dublin didn't play as well as they normally probably would," Walsh said at the launch of the Allianz National Leagues.

"We had a lot of chances and didn't take them. That's probably it, being realistic about it. It wasn't good enough from our perspective, hitting one out of four or five chances whereas Dublin were hitting nine out of 10 chances.

"That's the level they've been operating at and it's another area we have to catch up with them in. Dublin got their purple patch in the third quarter of the game, just three or four points of a margin, and went to seven or eight points, they're that good of a team they can do that to anyone.

"In a way the game kind of went away from us then."

Still, Walsh admits they exceeded almost everyone's expectations.

"I think everyone would reflect and say they'd always like to change things when you don't end up with the prize at the end of the day. For us, to get to where we got to, we exceeded expectations really.

"Nobody expected us to go through the league unbeaten and to be in the league final, to get to an All-Ireland semi-final, it was brilliant for us because the group had never been there before.

"That was the big thing for us on last year, to play every game as we saw it and see where it brings us to. We kind of hit new ground as we were going along.

"We were probably the favourites to get relegated from Division 1, then going through like we did was probably unknown to all of us and we kind of only realised what happened when the year was over."

Injury didn't help their cause last year. Team captain Paul Conroy broke his leg in the win over Kerry while Peter Duggan picked up an injury on club duty but Shane Walsh believes they have the squad to cope.

"He's (Conroy) been in the panel since 2007 nearly and when you have somebody like that missing and he's been in the middle of everything you're going to feel that loss. 'Dugs' (Peter Duggan) got injured in a club game.

"These things happen. We still had options to go to. We didn't have fellas in makeshift positions. We still had players of top quality. Peter Cooke came in against Kerry after Paul got injured and he was brilliant in the middle of the field with Tom (Flynn).

"We've Fiontán (Ó Curraoin) back as well this year, which is a huge addition. Imagine with a whole pre-season behind him what he's going to add as well and that's another option around the middle."

Galway will also be able to call on former AFL hopeful Cillian McDaid in 2019 as well as a number of Corofin players when their interest in the club championship comes to an end. Reaching a league final and the last four of the championship means there's not much Galway can do to improve on 2018 but regardless, Kevin Walsh's project will look to take another step forward.

"Kevin started at level one in his first year and he had to start somewhere and we've been moving the blocks as we go along.

"We are tweaking things like every team, like Dublin has done the last couple of years. They haven't won by doing the exact same thing, the exact replica of what they done the year before.

"We've to keep moving and hopefully it's the right direction. That's the trust we have in Kevin's management.

"They've brought it from the bottom and now they're starting to compete against the Division 1 teams. That's the table you want to be dining at."

Irish Independent

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