Footballers face a massive test against Donegal
Walking the Prom recently, I met a dedicated and committed Galway football supporter.
This Galwegian is a true optimist by nature, and is hopeful of a win over Donegal this Sunday at Pearse Stadium (2pm). His logic appeared to be as follows: Donegal will be overconfident after their facile win over Laois. They will take us for granted, thinking we are poor, and we will have learnt a lot from our concession of 3-18 to Meath. And we are at home. QED - A Galway victory.
I hope he is right. However, when you consider that Donegal won the All-Ireland two years ago and collected seven All-Stars that season, whereas Galway's last gong in that department was back in 2003 when Kevin Walsh received his third one - you can see how our fortunes have been at opposite ends of the spectrum in the past few seasons.
It will take a gigantic performance by Alan Mulholland's team on Sunday if they are to stop Donegal's running game and free flowing football, and to curb the threat of Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden in the full-forward line.
Donegal were poor in 2013. Mayo beat them by 4-17 to 1-10 in the All-Ireland quarter-final, but that was then, and this is now.
According to their manager Jim McGuinness, they have their "mojo" back and are targeting a good league to set them up for a right belt at the championship.
“We’re in a better position than we probably have been in the four years in terms of where players are,” McGuinness suggested last Sunday.“ The younger fellows are coming close to finding their feet within the squad. I think we had six or seven players who needed surgery and they’re all coming out the other end of that.
“Last year, we were losing those players through the season. So if we can continue to manage them and bring them forward, hopefully we end up with a squad that can challenge for championship football. We’re in a good position now in terms of the squad.”
They don't sound like the quotes of a manager with any complacency or who has any fear of any team at the moment, and he will be keen to collect another two points this weekend before a two-week break.
Sunday will be a huge test for Galway. Donegal is a very good team and one with an awful lot of confidence, and McGuinness has named the same side that started Laois last weekend.
The entire Galway team will have to focus on stopping Donegal building their attacks from the back, and stop them running the ball up the field in supporting waves.
Galway's first line of defence will have to be their fullforward line and the likes of Neil McGee and Karl Lacey cannot be allowed to sweep out with ball in hand.
If they do, they will create countless overlaps, and Manus Breathnach, or whoever is in the Galway goal, will have a very busy afternoon.
After the concession of 3-18 last Sunday, it is imperative things are kept tight at the back, even if that means pulling a few extra bodies back to clog things up a bit, especially in the first quarter. Donegal love to get into their groove early and Galway cannot afford to let that happen.
Hopefully, if I meet my Galway supporter buddy on the Prom next Tuesday evening, he can say with a self-satisfied smile;
"I told you so Ray. I told you we would beat them".
Alas, for now, I am in the "Doubting Thomas" category and will be going to Salthill on Sunday more in hope than expectation.