Friday 17 January 2020

Colm Keys: 'Joyce will seek to add style to substance'

Galway legend makes managerial bow with expectation that his teams will be more expressive

Pádraic Joyce takes over the senior reins following the progress with Galway’s U-20s. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Pádraic Joyce takes over the senior reins following the progress with Galway’s U-20s. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Pádraic Joyce was a straight shooter as a footballer, that laser-guided left foot wreaking havoc on many a defence during a stellar 15-year career with Galway.

Straight-shooting may also be the cornerstone of his reign as the county's footballer manager which begins in MacHale Park in Castlebar tomorrow, appropriately enough against Mayo.

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In an interview he conducted with Galway Bay FM shortly after his appointment Joyce didn't shirk the targets the county team, under his direction, should be setting.

"Our aim is to win another All-Ireland - simple as that. Anything less will be seen as an underachievement."

It was quite a bold statement given the projection that a Dublin-Kerry axis of power is sure to strengthen over the next five years, but an admirable one nonetheless.

If that is the aim, and he doesn't fear failure - which not winning one will ultimately be according to his own definition - then why shouldn't he have pronounced it in the way that he did? If there is to be a fly in the ointment to that presumed Dublin/Kerry duopoly, Galway can potentially be that on the basis of their production line in recent years.

Successive minor All-Ireland final defeats to Kerry and Cork were marginal, while Joyce's own U-20 team - which lost an All-Ireland semi-final to Dublin - was preceded by an All-Ireland U-21 final defeat in 2017, also to Dublin. So all teams are providing clearly identifiable talent to make the leap to senior football into the middle of this decade.

Coupled with what's there already they are one of the counties that can apply most pressure on the current top two in the first half of this decade.

As decades go, Galway have had arguably their poorest return in Connacht Championships, winning just two titles to match their paltry 1990s account and, for the first time, be overtaken by Roscommon who won three.

Both titles were won under Joyce's predecessor Kevin Walsh, who unquestionably improved Galway significantly through the second half of the decade.

In his five years, between League and Championship, he had a 65 per cent success rate - 37 wins, 19 losses and five draws from 61 games. By contrast, the first five years of the decade that saw three different managers - Joe Kernan, Tomás Ó Flaharta and Alan Mulholland - with a winning ratio of 36.5 per cent; 15 wins, 28 losses and five draws.

In the first two and last two years of the decade, Galway were a Division 1 team - for the middle six years they were in Division 2.

Walsh's record against Mayo - three successive Connacht and two League wins - and a winning ratio in the last two Division 1 League campaigns that was even ahead of Dublin, got lost in the style war that he ultimately lost.

Building substance over style did not wash for long enough with the Galway football public.

Cogs

That said, without some of his most important cogs for much of the season - captain Damien Comer and midfielder Ciaran Duggan central among them, while Cillian McDaid's promise couldn't be fully tapped into - Walsh was dealt a difficult hand in 2019.

Joyce has given a strong hint as to what kind of style can be expected under his command, with his stated admiration for Corofin in that same radio interview.

"We just have to catch up to Corofin, they have a great model at their club and they are easy to watch. The good teams are always easy to watch and Dublin football is very easy to watch," he said at the time.

"There does need to be a huge connection between the supporters and the team, but the team need to give the supporters loads of reasons to go and watch them," he added.

There is also the question of the new management's relationship with the Corofin players, something that wasn't always apparently strong during the last five years. Only last year was there a real sense of alignment between the club and county team.

Walsh was unfortunate in that three campaigns significantly overlapped.

This year, Corofin's interest will be wrapped up almost two months earlier, affording them a full widow of exposure to the League if they so desire.

Peter Cooke is now US-based, while Danny Cummins has gone travelling, but Joyce will be able to call on most of those players who were long-term injuries last year.

Expression should be a big part of Joyce's teams over the next couple of seasons, but striking a balance is something even Jim Gavin and Dublin had to reconcile with.

They can't ditch everything they've worked towards over the last three years either.

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