Battling footballers fall to impressive Tyrone

Galway's Enda Tierney fights off Tyrone's Rory Brennan in action from the Allianz Division 2 National Football League division two game at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. 
Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Galway's Enda Tierney fights off Tyrone's Rory Brennan in action from the Allianz Division 2 National Football League division two game at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

There were mixed emotions for Galway football supporters and team management leaving Pearse Stadium on Sunday after watching their side go down narrowly by 1-9 to 1-7 against Mickey Harte's Tyrone side.

The main positive was that Kevin Walsh's side kept battling right to the finish line and they genuinely had Tyrone on the rack for the last 10 minutes after Damien Comer kick-started the revival with a well-taken goal. Galway had kicked 13 or 14 wides during the game too, and if they had been a bit more efficient in front of goal, they could have sneaked a draw at the finish.

Considering Galway were down to 14 men for almost 30 minutes of the second half following influential midfielder Paul Conroy's dismissal with a second card, the team deserve credit for fighting back and making a real contest in the final quarter.

As well as Comer's goal, points from substitutes Peter Cooke and Shane Walsh, who both made positive impacts, and a tremendous effort from the lively Eamon Brannigan, kept the game alive until the final whistle.

Another positive is players such as Thomas Dolan, David Wynne, Declan Kyne, Eoghan Kerin, Johnny Heaney, and youngsters such as Brannigan and Cooke, enjoyed more exposure to National League football and the experience of playing a quality team such as Tyrone - everyone's favourites to be back in division one next season.

Despite the close margin at the finish and Galway's progress to date, it is reasonable to say that when Tyrone ran at Galway in the first half they had the home side in a lot of difficulty, as evidenced by how the Red Hand men almost walked the ball into the net for their goal.

All-Ireland semi-finalists last year, Tyrone are experienced and well-coached, and they have real pace and stamina at half-back and half-forward, and Mattie Donnelly is a really fine player. Hence they were able to transfer from defence to attack, or vice-versa at lightning speed.

A few of us counted their transition from one to the other, and they were able to do so in under eight seconds and have men either sweeping forward in numbers in support of their full-forward line or back to their full-back line.

The top teams such as Dublin (James McCarthy, Philly McMahon, Jack McCaffrey, Paul Flynn ) and Donegal (Ryan McHugh is a case in point ) and Mayo (Lee Keegan, Diarmuid O'Connor ) have some players who can really drive at the opposition and support the play with blistering pace.

Galway will need to work harder at that because on too many occasions their full-forward line of Damien Comer and Adrian Varley had no support coming from out the field to take a layoff when in possession and slip the ball over the bar, or better still create an overlap for a goal.

That said, if players such as Shane Walsh, who has wicked speed, can get back to full fitness for 70 minutes of hard football, he would provide an option as a link man between half-backs, midfield and the inside line. Liam Silke too needs to become more involved, offering consistent and penetrating support from the half-back line.

I was in McHale Park on Saturday evening and Dublin wing-back James McCarthy gave an exhibition of how to support play from deep and was an example of perpetual motion. Galway players need to constantly "give and go" - as opposed to just giving, and not supporting the ball.

Despite the loss, Kevin Walsh was rightly upbeat about the display.

"We had a fair few wides that were scorable and also a few frees that were scorable. To be honest, we were disappointed we didn’t get a point out of the game in the end.

“There are things we have to improve on, but they are a new group of lads together and they worked really hard for the last 25 minutes in particular and we were pleased with that. They have a great attitude and that is a great starting point.”

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