The Galway footballers kickstart their 2019 league campaign with a home game against Cavan on Sunday afternoon in Pearse Stadium (2.30pm ).
After their unbeaten run to the final last year, much will be expected again of Kevin Walsh’s troops, but top of the team’s agenda will be to consolidate their place among the top teams of the country and blood some players capable of performing at the top level.
Of concern to Kevin Walsh already will be the lack of scorers in the two FBD games - only five players scored in the two FBD matches; and the low scoring rate, 1-5 and 1-9 against Roscommon and Mayo respectively.
Galway did have a number of injuries prior to the Roscommon game, including Paul Conroy, Damien Comer, Eamonn Brannigan, Adrian Varley and John Daly, while the team could have done without the late withdrawal of the returning Cillian McDaid before Sunday's game. And that situation was compounded by the departure of Declan Kyne, Michael Daly and Johnny Heaney during the match.
Walsh still has injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s opener, and in addition to that growing list, there are seven Corofin panel members involved in the club championship who may not be available, although Walsh can welcome the Spiddal contingent after their All Ireland semi-final loss to Naomh Eanna at the weekend by 3-9 to 0-11.
This will be a first test for Cavan’s new manager Michael Graham, who also remains involved with Longford side Mullinalaghta. They are playing Dr Crokes of Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final on February 16, so Graham is a busy man at the moment.
Cavan have enjoyed much success at underage level in recent years, winning four successive Ulster u21 titles from 2011-2014, and, having twice been promoted to division one, much was expected of these players. Now hopes are high Graham will be able to get the best out of them in their return to the top flight, and players will be keen to impress their new manager.
As a result it could be a tougher test for Galway than many might expect, and with four away games to Dublin, Monaghan, Mayo and Tyrone, Galway’s home form will be vital.
A win against Cavan is a must if Galway are to consolidate the success of last season, and hopefully go one better and win the title.
Three wins and six points is usually enough to keep teams in this division and this will be Galway’s main target. If or when that is achieved, the players and management can begin to look forward to the May 5 Bank Holiday weekend and the first round of the Connacht Championship against London.
Last Sunday's performance against Roscommon will have disappointed Walsh and his team. Although Roscommon were set up well defensively, scoring 1-5 in 70 minutes is not going to win games. In addition there were two major differences between the teams. Galway received eight yellow cards, three black cards, and one red, some of which may have been on the soft side, but compared to Roscommon’s four yellows and one black, indiscipline was an issue in this scrappy and often heated final.
Secondly, Roscommon scored their kickable frees, five in total, and Galway missed five. While Galway have integrated many new and returning players into last year's successful team, they will be expected to show more on Sunday afternoon in Pearse Stadium.