In a repeat of last year’s Connacht semi-final Galway senior footballers face Sligo in the newly revamped Markievicz Park on Sunday (3.30pm ).
The Galway management will be looking for a positive response from the players after their underwhelming performance in Ruislip two weeks ago.
However, they are still missing a number of the more senior players, and will go into this match with an understrength team. But with John Daly and Antaine O’Laoi continuing to impress, hopefully the absence of key players will not affect Galway's result.
It does mean these younger players are enjoying valuable championship experience, and another win on Sunday would certainly have Kevin Walsh confident heading into a home Connacht final against either Roscommon or Mayo. More competition for places is undoubtedly a positive for Galway and can only improve the team as a whole.
Sligo kick off their championshp action after an extremely disappointing league. Relegated and having lost every game, Sligo will be making a huge effort to make amends, and Galway must be ready for the home side to come out with all guns blazing, especially during this first game in Markievicz Park for more than a year. Having played all of the home league games in Connolly Park, Collooney, the Sligo players will be delighted to be back in more familiar territory, and with the home crowd behind them, Paul Taylor’s side will take to the field in the belief they can cause an upset.
Galway will have happy memories of their last visit to Markievicz Park when they trounced Donegal by 4-17 to 0-14 in the final round of the qualifiers to advance to yet another quarter final in 2017. A performance like that is what the players and management need to boost confidence levels if they are to have a chance at retaining the JJ Nestor cup. This is something that Galway have not achieved since 2002 and 2003, and retaining the title will show progress, as well as improved levels of consistency. Competing in three of the four Connacht finals, and winning two since Walsh has been in charge, has shown that results have improved, but retaining the title will confirm consistency ahead of championship football.
The introduction of Fiontain O’Currain in Ruislip was a boost for the Galway panel as they continue to miss Ciaran Duggan and Paul Conroy in midfield. Playing his first football of the year for Galway, O’Currain would have been delighted to get minutes under his belt and give Kevin Walsh some comfort, knowing another experienced player is on the way back to full match fitness.
On Sunday Galway will again look to the talents of Shane Walsh, Ian Burke and Michael Daly up front to provide the spark to get them over the line. With Danny Cummins back for the second half of the league after missing the entirety of 2018, he will be hoping to get another chance to show what he can do after a quiet game in London. Johnny Heaney is guaranteed to provide another hard-working display, but he will hope his accuracy will be that bit sharper after the last outing.
In defence, Galway will need to provide some cover for the full back line. As seen in the last league game against Tyrone and on occasion in London, when there is a two-on-two or one-on-one in defence, few defenders in the country will always come out on top. The half-back line of O’Donnell, Daly and Silke were solid in their first outing together. Kieran Molloy will again be another option for Galway. Being the offensive flair player he is, Molloy might not have suited coming on in what was a tight encounter, but maybe the club footballer of the year could have been the link from defence to attack that was missing.
In goal Ruairi Lavelle would have been happy with his performance in Ruislip. Apart from a couple of kick-outs that went astray, he did not put a foot out of place, and there was nothing he could have done about the finish from Butler for the goal. What is certain, however, is that Galway must now up the ante if they are to come close to achieving what they accomplished last year.
Down referee Ciaran Brannigan will be the man in the middle on Sunday with many of the Galway players already familiar with him after refereeing their league game against Dublin back in February.