Galway footballers have a long road ahead

There has been progress made by the Galway footballers over the past few months, and their performances have improved since the league. However, based on their 1-20 to 2-10 defeat to Kerry last Sunday in Dublin, the road ahead is still long and windy.

It will take patience and a lot of investment by all stakeholders to bring Galway back to a top tier team, if that is what is going to happen.

Kerry won easily in the end in this All-Ireland quarter-final. They scored five out of the last six scores, and had the match gone on much longer, the gap looked likely to widen, rather than narrow.

In the last 10 minutes, many of the Galway lads looked out on their feet and the Kerry subs, especially Barry John Keane who scored 0-3 made big contributions.

It is reasonable to say too, that at 1-5 to no-score after 17 minutes, that the Kerry players looked around at each other and thought, “This is going to be a handy game” - “These boys aren’t up to much”.

Once a team or even a few of the players involved on that team start to think that it is going to be a day on “easy-street” - and it can be very dangerous.

To be fair to the Galway players they did rally after Thomas Flynn’s terrific individual goal.

It was badly needed and the Athenry man did well to dash through the middle of the Kerry rearguard to rattle the net.

Micheal Lundy - who had a superb game and has been a real find this year - followed up a good Bradshaw point with a marvellous goal in the second half and when Shane Walsh notched another fine point, Galway had hit 1-2 on the bounce and the game was down to two points.

For an instant, there was a slight glimmer of hope, that the implausible could happen and had Damien Comer spotted a free Galway player in space, rather than taking on the shot, perhaps Galway could have hit the front.

But that shaft of light disappeared almost immediately when Paul Geaney hit two good scores to get Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s men back in control.

Kerry march on to meet Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 24 and Galway have a few weeks to contemplate what to do next.

Team manager Alan Mulholland has served his initial three-year term and nobody really knows for sure if he, or his selectors, Paul Clancy and Declan Meehan, will be at the helm for 2015.

After conceding 3-14 to Mayo, 4-12 to Tipperary and 1-20 to Kerry in three consecutive championship games, they can be no denying that Galway have major issues at the back.

Most, if not all, of the Galway defenders are unable for one-to-one combat with the likes of James O’Donoghue, Cillian O’Connor, Bernard Brogan, or Michael Murphy - there is no shame in that - as few defenders in the country are.

Galway need to develop a strategy that their full-back line in particular are not left exposed as they were in Croke Park five days ago, or in McHale Park either for that matter.

O’Donoghue waltzed through for his goal last weekend after only 12 minutes and the Kingdom led by 1-3 to 0-0. Galway were already in a fire-fighting situation.

The likes of Armagh, Donegal, and Kerry themselves, get lots of men behind the ball and close down the spaces to stop corner backs in particular being left one-on-one with their opponents.

Then they break at speed when they turn the ball over. Watch Donegal and Armagh this weekend to view the strategy first hand.

Unless Galway are prepared to adopt such a strategy, it is difficult to see any major progress being made, such as promotion out of Division Two or a genuine attempt at a Connacht title.

Successful teams are built on the foundation stone, of a solid defence. not conceding big scores.

Galway need to adopt that approach for next season and it will take time to implement. Some supporters may not like such a defensive strategy, but the same supporters want success too, and in the modern game you can't have one, without the other.

The current Mayo team are a serious bunch of footballers. And while ‘deserve’ has nothing to do with ultimate glory in any sport, nobody should begrudge the likes of Alan Dillon, Andy Moran, and Keith Higgins an All-Ireland medal.

Their commitment and dedication has been magnificent over the past decade and to see Dillon kicking four points from play, 10 years after an All-Ireland final defeat in 2004, and three more defeats since then, is a testament to his self-belief and will to win.

Seamus and Aidan O’Shea were fantastic too and I think that they will have too much for Kerry in three weeks time.

Mayo have serious power and strength all over the field and their ability to dispossess Cork players in possession was amazing.

The tenacity of the Mayo forwards stopping the Cork defenders coming out was a real difference between the sides and something to admire.

Whether they would be good enough to beat Dublin or Donegal in full flight remains to be seen.

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