Galway’s triple All-Star of 1998, 2001, and 2003, Kevin Walsh, was ratified on Tuesday night as the new manager at u-21 and senior level with the Sligo footballers for 2009.
Walsh, who is a hugely popular figure in Galway footballing circles, has been in charge of the Aran Islands junior footballers this season and has been a selector with Connacht and John O’Mahony for the last few years. Also involved with the Galway ladies footballers in the recent past, he now makes his first foray into senior intercounty management with the 2007 Connacht champions.
And he faces a massive challenge in the season ahead. Sligo had a horrid year under Tommy Jordan in 2008. They were relegated to division four for the first time in a few years and conceded 6-86 in the seven games they played in the league, ending up with a -20 scoring difference.
Coming on the back of that kind of league form, it was absolutely no surprise they had a miserable run in the championship too, losing to Mayo on a score-line of 3-11 to 0-7. Tommy Jordan retired at that juncture for personal reasons.
So to be frank, the only way for Sligo football is up next year. It cannot go any lower.
And at least the double All-Ireland winner’s new team will face some of the weaker counties in the early months of the new year, allowing him and his side to build some momentum and get a few wins under their belt before the harder tests come down the track.
To prove that point, Sligo’s first NFL game in 2009 is at home against Kilkenny on the first Sunday in February and they follow that up with an away trip to Clare the following Saturday.
Some of the other teams in that division include Carlow and London who are both well beatable, but based on last year’s form, Sligo would find it tough to beat the likes of Wicklow, Antrim, and Leitrim.
Just to add a bit of petrol to his managerial debut season, Sligo are due to play Galway in the Connacht semi-final next year.
Walsh will be supported in his new management role by three youthful selectors, Paul Taylor, Paul Durcan, and Dessie Sloyan, who have all played with Sligo this decade. Indeed Taylor is still a top club player with Eastern Harps who play Ballaghadereen in the Connacht club championship on Sunday.
Managing Sligo would be seen as one of the toughest jobs in Gaelic football and they have only 20 football clubs in the entire county. However it should not be forgotten that they beat Galway in the Connacht final in 2007, and if Walsh can get them back to playing that quality of football and get them out of division four next year, he will be deemed a massive success.
Sports editor with the Sligo Weekender, Liam Maloney spoke to the Galway Advertiser yesterday and said Walsh’s appointment was considered a very positive move by the county board as his playing pedigree and huge success on the field of play would command the immediate respect of the Sligo players.
Allied to that is the fact that his three selectors are all legends in Sligo football and their combined freshness and new approach were considered the best way forward for the current panel.
Could this be the first step on the path for Walsh to manage the Galway seniors at some stage in the future?