Galway footballers can stake a claim in championship opener

 Ian Burke is expected to lne out for Galway in Syunday’s Connacht Senior Football Championship opener against London on Sunday.

Ian Burke is expected to lne out for Galway in Syunday’s Connacht Senior Football Championship opener against London on Sunday.

Still missing some of their more senior players, Galway head to London for this season's championship opener in Ruislip on Sunday (3pm ).

This fixture will provide manager Kevin Walsh with another chance to see how some of the new additions perform after a solid league campaign before the championship action hots up.

Comparing this Galway team to the one that last faced London five years ago shows both the unforgiving nature of championship football and the changes that have been made by Kevin Walsh since the start of his reign.

Due to personnel changes and injuries, just eight of the 21 who played in 2014 have a chance of playing this weekend. Manus Breathnach, Johnny Duane, Gary O’Donnell, Gareth Bradshaw, Fiontan O’Currain, Tom Flynn, Shane Walsh and Danny Cummins, along with the injured trio of Damien Comer, Paul Conroy and Adrian Varley, are the only surviving members of the squad who travelled in 2014.

Walsh has been boosted by the timely return of the Corofin players after the conclusion of the league, and a strong showing against London, followed by another good outing against Sligo, would leave his team in a good position before a Connacht final and the Super 8s.

This is a squad with huge potential that, without setting the world alight, played consistently throughout the league. With all the chopping and changing through injury and providing squad members with opportunities to play, achieving consistency was a real bonus for Walsh, a reflection of team training and progress the younger players have made over the last number of years.

London, however, have been improving year-on-year recently, and have been more competitive in Connacht without reaching the heights of 2013. Although losing to Sligo in 2018, they were still in the game until the 50 minute mark when Sligo’s fitness showed and the Exiles faded away.

Under the stewardship of Ciaran Deely, London have improved, and started picking up points in division 4. Although they finished bottom of the division, they by no means disgraced themselves, but it reflected the struggle the club has in trying to keep the GAA vibrant in the city. With no training grounds of their own, and still being dependent on ex-pats, it is difficult to continue.

Galway fans are expecting to travel to London in numbers, encouraged by the Bank Holiday weekend. They will be looking for a spectacle by their county team, especially with so many players trying to stake a claim for the bigger days to come.

Galway’s key link man Ian Burke, who has not played since St Patrick’s Day,will be eager to get some much-needed minutes under his belt.

While the trip to London represents a change in environment for the players, it is still a championship football game, and Kevin Walsh will be reminding them this is not the time for complacency. There is a game to be won with a Connacht semi-final up for grabs.

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