Jeepers Jack. What a few weeks the Galway footballers have had.
Six points up at half time and cruising against Mayo on the last Sunday in March – that was followed by a total collapse in the second half and they end up getting deservedly beaten by a late one by Trevor Mortimer.
That was the day they lost their spot in the 2009 league final, not last Sunday.
Then along with the rest of us they were pulverised by Brian Lenihan in his not so “mini” budget.
And then to cap it all off, they found themselves being given a good auld trouncing and a lesson in how to play Gaelic football by Kerry down in Austin Stack Park, Tralee, last Sunday.
It was a really disappointing performance, and let’s be under no illusions here, Kerry could have beaten Galway by a cricket score in this tie. That it ended with only seven points between the sides is because Kerry took their foot off the gas in the last quarter and decided to roll home rather than give any killing strokes. They are too cute for that. “Yerra. T’is only the league after all boy.” Otherwise it would have been as humiliating on the scoreboard as it was on the pitch.
Galway failed especially in the second half to compete with the massive challenge that any team will face when they tangle with Kerry this year.
They were miles off the pace, their handling was abysmal, and an awful lot of hard work and some soul searching will have to be done between now and the championship if they are to retain the Connacht crown.
Assuming that Galway beat London, they will have a tough date in Markievicz Park with newly promoted Sligo on June 28.
No doubt Kevin Walsh and Sligo would relish the opportunity to get one over on the Tribesmen on home soil and rekindle the mood that made them Connacht champions in 2007.
Ironically, speaking of Kevin Walsh brings us to Galway’s biggest and exceptionally enflamed Achilles’ heel – MIDFIELD.
Both maroon midfielders, Niall Coleman and Joe Bergin were substituted, while Barry Cullinane made no real headway either when brought on. That tells us all we need to know about the persistent and biggest problem that has dogged the team since Walsh and Sean O’ Domhnaill hung up their boots.
Once you are beaten at midfield, you are in damage limitation mode, and Kerry won midfield 13-3 in the first half so the Galway defence did well to keep the Kingdom at bay until half time.
Defensively Galway were under massive pressure, and fair dues to Gareth Bradshaw, David Reilly, Finian Hanley, and Damien Burke who showed a lot of defiance and played some good football to keep the dam intact for the first 35 minutes.
However, and it always looked like happening, once the dam burst at the start of the second half, Kerry scored 2-04 in a short space of time and they were out of sight and rampant.
Tommy Walsh and Kieran Donaghy scored the goals and they put some distance between the sides. From then on the gulf in class, experience, and strength in depth between the two panels became extraordinarily obvious.
Jack O’Connor could bring on the likes of Daragh O’ Se, David Moran, Darren O’ Sullivan, and Tadhg Kennelly whereas Liam Sammon had no such luxury.
In my humble opinion the Galway management team will have to sit down and reassess their best options at midfield for the up-coming championship and perhaps even over the next few years. Because, let’s be honest here, the combinations they have been putting out have not been doing the business and their ball retention on the few occasions they got it the last day was atrocious. The ball was often given away cheaply on far too many occasions.
Paul Conroy was an All-Ireland winning minor captain two years ago and he lined out at midfield on that team. He always looks in control when on the ball and he is genuinely skilful and confident in possession. He may be only 19 years of age, but he has to be given space to express himself. Midfield will probably be his long-term position in the county colours.
Alongside him Gareth Bradshaw would provide work-rate, mobility, a great engine, and scoring potential. Even when he was put to midfield for 20 minutes the last day, he improved things enormously and also got on the scoreboard with a fine point. We have a good few half-backs who could don his number five jersey and allow him to rampage around the middle and get some ball up to an inside line of Michael Meehan and Padriag Joyce.
Last Sunday proved too that PJ’s best days at centre-forward are over and he needs to be kept closer to the goal for most of the game. He took his goal exquisitely and no corner back would feel confident of containing him if he was fed the right ball.
They are only some of the changes that need to be made, and I will pick the Galway team that I think should start in the championship next week after I mull over it for a few days.