Galway footballers are worthy league champions

Incremental progress is being made

Captain Gary O'Donnell  lifts the Allianz Football League division 2 cup after at Croke Park on Sunday after Galway defeated Kildare. 
Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Captain Gary O'Donnell lifts the Allianz Football League division 2 cup after at Croke Park on Sunday after Galway defeated Kildare. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Sunday was a good day for Galway football. Not only did Kevin Walsh's charges fully deserve to win the division Two league title for 2017, beating Kildare by 0-18 to 0-16, but it was also the county's first senior football victory at Croke Park for far too long.

It was satisfying on many levels to see Gary O'Donnell collect the cup in the Hogan Stand, and as Seán Armstrong pointed out after the game, "nice to get that monkey off the panel's back".

Armstrong, who came out of retirement this year after a strong club championship last summer, had a solid game at headquarters, hitting two important points from play as well as linking play well.

"I've come up here on five or six occasions and we've always come away with our tail between our legs," Armstrong said. " So we're absolutely delighted to get a win at Croke Park and get the monkey off our back."

While the first half was turgid stuff from both sides, the second period opened up a good bit and Galway produced some patches of good attacking football. Not for the first time this year, they showed a lot of character in the last quarter to come from behind to get the victory. The impetus added by the introduction of the Galway subs is always a good sign.

Good character

Team manager Kevin Walsh was pleased with the temperament and spirit the side showed when the game was in the balance in the last 10 minutes.

"When Kildare were three up, you'd be saying it would be a nasty one to lose on the back of the possession and chances we had. However, fair play to the boys, it was a test of character, and the beauty of this is they get to feel what pressure means.

“This competition is that it tests character. The boys never lie down which is great, and finishing the league strongly with four wins in-a-row is important."

Galway now have an eight-week gap before their championship game on Sunday June 11 in Pearse Stadium when they will more than likely be facing last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists Mayo.

Stephen Rochford's men take on Sligo or New York in McHale Park on May 21 to see who will face Galway in the Connacht semi-final and based on all known form over the past 18 months it is probable that the green and red will advance.

Strong panel

A big plus for Galway this championship season is that the panel is superior and has greater depth than last year.

Galway used 31 players during the league campaign and there is genuine competition now for most starting jerseys which is a great way to have things.

Players such as Michael Daly, Fiontán Ó Curraoin, Michael Farragher, Cathal Sweeney, Ian Burke, Barry McHugh and Shane Walsh (who was injured last year ), and the returned Sean Armstrong, all provide the management team with options to either start, or come in and make a positive impact off the bench that they did not have last season when they bowed out to Tipperary.

Some of Gerry Fahy's U21s like Cillian McDaid and Sean Kelly who are in action this weekend against Kerry in Ennis (4.30pm ) may also be drafted into the senior squad when the U21 campaign ends, and those players offer real pace, energy and the fearlessness of youth that creates real synergy in any set-up.

Obviously based on last Sunday's two games in Croke Park, Galway are still a long way off competing with the best two teams in the country - Dublin and Kerry. However, the current Galway set-up is working hard, both the backroom team and the players.

Progress is being made and the team is going in the right direction. There has been significant improvement over the last few years. And nobody can ask for any more than that.

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