A huge crowd is expected in Tuam Stadium on Sunday when Galway footballers will host Tyrone in round four of the Allianz League (2pm ).
Galway have made a strong start to the league this year, and a win on Sunday will almost guarantee Galway safety, while also putting them in a strong position to qualify for a league final. That was the stated target of manager Padraic Joyce in pre-season, and it is that boldness of Joyce’s ambitions, and the positivity which he has transmitted onto the pitch, which has caused a massive buzz among Galway football supporters.
Tyrone will arrive at Tuam Stadium on a high following their one-point victory over Kerry almost a fortnight ago. This victory was preceded by a loss to Monaghan and an opening round win over basement side Meath. But Tuam Stadium is a difficult place for away teams - proven the last time Tyrone visited the old stadium.
In Galway’s first season back in division one in 2018 they overcame the Tyrone resistance with a four-point victory as they never once trailed throughout the game. This will no doubt play on the minds of the Tyrone players, and of course manager Mickey Harte.
Tyrone, however, will be boosted by the return of their marquee forward Cathal McShane, whose proposed move to Australia to the AFL was called off. McShane will be keen to put the furore caused by his proposed move to one side by putting in a good performance on the pitch, and Galway must be prepared for this backlash. The form of corner forward Darren McCurry will also require the close attention of the Galway full-back line.
Yet Galway will enter the game full of confidence following their victory, although by the minimum, away to Donegal. The character shown by the players was admirable as they came from behind away from home in difficult conditions.
Much of the Galway charge so far this season has been led from the back, and this was shown last weekend as marauding corner backs Johnny Heaney and Seán Kelly popped up with goals to turn the game in Galway’s favour.
It also appears Galway may have found their centre-back for the foreseeable years in the form of John Daly, although Liam Silke comes in for him this weekend. Daly’s performances have been nothing short of phenomenal. His control in the tackle and calmness on the ball has been crucial to Galway seeing out their two wins to date.
Interestingly Damien Comer was switched to midfield for the second half of the Donegal game, and Galway gained more of a foothold following the switch. Whether Comer will appear at centre-field again remains to be seen, as there is no doubt he is one of the most dangerous forwards in the country close to goal. Shane Walsh is thriving as captain and, on current form, is one of the best players in the country. He puts fear in his opponents with his direct running and point-taking ability. If Walsh and co are on song this coming Sunday, it is difficult not to see Padraic Joyce’s Tribesmen picking up two points.
Joyce has made three changes to his starting line-up with Corofin’s Liam Silke returning to centre back in place of John Daly, Eamon Brannigan replaces Finian O’Laoí in the half forward line, and Adrian Varley starts at corner forward instead of Michael Boyle.
Galway (v Tyrone ): Conor Gleeson; Sean Kelly, Sean Mulkerrin, Johnny Heaney; Gary O’Donnell, Liam Sike, Cillian McDaid; Ronan Steede, Cein D’Arcy; Eamon Brannigan, Damien Comer, Mike Daly; Robert Finnerty,
Ladies in action
In an early season test, Galway Ladies face All Ireland champions Dublin in round four of the Lidl Ladies NFL at Parnell Park on Sunday.
It is the first time the two sides have met since the All Ireland final, and while both teams will be experimenting to some degree during this competition, it will be a good test for Galway as they try to catch up to league leaders unbeaten Cork.
Galway’s scoring prowess has been a feature of the three games. They have scored a whopping 65 points to date, and although they have conceded 43, they currently boast the best points difference of the eight division one teams.
•The refixed Connacht U20 football semi-final between Galway and Leitrim will be played Saturday, February 22 at 2pm in Carrick-on-Shannon. The Connacht final will now be played on March 7 between Roscommon and the winners of Galway and Leitrim.
Shane Walsh (c ), Adrian Varley.