Galway footballers stick to their guns and stay the course

There are some really fantastic GAA supporters. We should never forget to acknowledge that fact.

Last Sunday morning was a case in point. I was haring down the motorway to Mullingar from the fireworks in Croke Park on Saturday night when I phoned a friend to see if he was going to the Galway v Westmeath game.

Now please, bear in mind that it was about 11.50am and throw-in was not until 2.30pm.

"Are you going to the game?" was my first question.

"I am," comes the brisk reply.

"Where are you now? Have you left Galway yet?" – fishing for some relevant information.

"Galway. Galway. Left Galway," was trotted out in an agitated state."Sure we're parked up here in Mullingar. We are just going in for lunch and a read of the papers."

Now some of that posse of lads are from back west in Rosmuc and there they were, in-situ, and raring to go, almost three hours before Brian Crowe was going to get proceedings under way.

With that kind of enthusiasm and dedication to the cause, Liam Sammon should give them a call to join his backroom team. And at least their valiant efforts were not in vain on this occasion as they got to see a fine performance from their side that yielded two important points and will have given some of the younger members of the squad some additional game time before they face the Dubs on Sunday week in Pearse Stadium.

With 15 minutes to go things looked ominous when Barry Cullinane correctly got a red card for a high elbow on Dessie Dolan. He followed Finian Hanley and Menlough's David Reilly who had collected yellow cards. Denis Glennon, who had been lively all through, shot a stunning point to push Iar-Mhi into a one-point lead, and it was backs-to-the-wall stuff for the visiting side.

Fortune favours the brave though, and when two of the Westmeath full-back line unnecessarily collided chasing a high dangerous ball from Darren Mullahy, it left the way open for Killkerrin-Clonberne's Jonathan Ryan to rifle home a spectacular goal from distance. Ryan was highly effective on his introduction and his pace and confidence added a lot to Galway's attacking cohesion and menace.

From that body blow, Westmeath crumpled.

The Tribesmen were inspired by some fantastic leadership and positional play by Padraig Joyce at centre-forward and Galway powered home in impressive fashion.

All the Galway subs made an impact which was great to see and it was good to see Sean Armstrong back looking mobile and eager. Mark Lydon and David Finnegan both added some height and strength when introduced, and the Cortoon man in particular put some dangerous balls into the home side's full-forward line.

The man whose play impressed me most apart from Joyce's vision and reading of the game was Gareth Bradshaw whose pace and powerful running were in evidence throughout. In my humble opinion Bradshaw should be given a good run at midfield when the Corofin defenders come back after the All-Ireland series. He has a great engine, and with the new rules, the runs he could make down the middle against the opposition would cause consternation. Likewise, he would be able to support the defence and few opposing players would be able to stay with him.

With the likes of Alan Burke, Kieran Fitzgerald, Damien Burke, Michael Comer, and Gary Sice all to come back into the panel sniffing around for defenders’ positions in the next six or seven weeks, there is no need to restrict the influence that Bradshaw could have, if given his head.

Michael Meehan was as usual top-scorer and he shot an impressive 1-05. Nicky Joyce too, was dangerous looking until a nasty looking injury cut short his contribution. He has become very strong up top. His direct running caused real problems for the Westmeath defence and he helped himself to two good points from play.

On the expense side of things, Barry Cullinane's straight red card could prove costly against Dublin as his power and aerial ability would have been good foil for Ciaran Whelan.

Still, last Sunday was all in all a very encouraging and positive start to the NFL campaign. The up-coming games against Dublin and away to Tyrone will tell those men from Rosmuc much about how many enjoyable Sundays they will have during the championship days of high summer.

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