Footballers head to Derry for crucial league game

The Galway footballers return to league action this Sunday in Celtic Park (2pm ) when they face Derry in round three of the National Football League.

Derry have made an excellent start in this year’s league under new manager Damien Barton, and they will be hoping to continue their run with a home win, which would see them with maximum points from three games.

The Ulster men beat Fermanagh easily in round one by 3-13 to 1-10 and continued with another impressive performance, beating Cavan by 1-12 to 1-11 in Breffni Park. It is not easy to beat Cavan at home and the Derry men came late with a point from Mark Lynch to sneak that win.

Galway have also started the year well, winning the FBD league with a win over Roscommon and then beating Laois easily in the first round in O’Moore Park.

They battled hard against Tyrone in Pearse Stadium before going down by two points, 1-11 to 1-09, with Damien Comer hitting Galway’s goal.

Galway have a strong recent record against Derry. The sides met in last year's championship qualifiers at Pearse Stadium with Kevin Walsh’s men winning by six points. The sides last met in the league back in 2013, and Galway won that encounter by three points.

There is a renewed spirit in Derry since Barton has taken over, and they have a few players back who have not been involved over the past season or two, such as James Kielt and Ryan Bell.

They will be a tough nut to crack in three days’ time, and Galway manager Kevin Walsh, while acknowledging next Sunday will provide a stern test for his squad, is hopeful they can build on their gutsy display against Tyrone.

“We took a lot of positives from the Tyrone game, even though we did not get a win. The lads worked very hard right to the finish and it was a good learning experience for some of the younger lads on our squad. We had a good few under 21s from last year that saw action and guys like Eamon Brannigan, Johnny Heaney, Enda Tierney and Peter Cooke all did well.

“We did fall out of the game at stages and that is something we have worked on over the past two weeks, and we will be keen to avoid that happening in our up-coming games.”

Players back from injury

Thankfully Galway’s injured players are coming back on stream which is a big plus with three consecutive games over the next few weekends, according to the Killannin man.

“It is a definite plus that we have lads coming back from injury and we are pleased to have Shane Walsh, Gary Sice and Finian Hanley available for selection for this weekend. It gives us more options and it is good to have experienced players like Gary and Finian back fully fit.”

Other guys returning to fitness and training during the week were Cathal Sweeney, Gareth Bradshaw, Danny Cummins, and Patrick Sweeney.

Derry are strong favourites to win this home fixture and Galway are priced at 15/8 to get the points.

To win, Galway will need to keep tabs on wing-forward Caoilean O’Boyle, who has scored goals in both of their league wins, and James Kielt and Ryan Bell who are talented players in their full-forward line.

The midfield battle will be critical, and both Emmet Bradley and the experienced Mark Lynch have been in tremendous form for the Derry men recently.

Assuming Paul Conroy and Fiontán Ó Curraoin are picked at midfield for Galway, it will be interesting to see if they can hold sway over the two Derry boys.

It is easy to see why Derry are favourites on the back of their two wins. They are playing with new attacking flair and are at home.

That said, if the Galway forwards click, and Damien Comer, Adrian Varley, Shane Walsh, Gary Sice and young Brannigan get enough possession, they are not without a reasonable chance of turning the home side over.

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