Ray Silke’s starting XV for Galway for the 2009 Connacht championship.

1. Adrian Faherty – Claregalway

A close call between Adrian and last year’s custodian Paul Doherty. Faherty needs to work on varying his kick-out. He has a booming kick, but he needs to mix it up a bit and try to hit his wing-forwards more or even pop a few short ones to his wing-backs to avoid becoming too predictable.

2. Kieran Fitzgerald – Corofin

Fitzgerald had a fine season with Corofin last year and has oceans of experience winning an All Star in 2001. He has bulked up in the past few seasons, and despite getting very little game time in the NFL, he still can have a role to play if given a chance.

3. Finian Hanley – Salthill

No stand-out option to Hanley in this position and he will be hopeful that with an improved performance by others out the field, he will not see as much of the leather as he did against Kerry in the recent league game. On his game, he is a top class defender.

4. Damien Burke – Corofin

Impressed me in the last few rounds of the NFL and he was a loss when he had to go off injured against Kerry in the championship last year. An experienced player who can and has done a very good man-marking job in the corner.

5. Alan Burke – Corofin

Burke has seen very little game time in the county jersey in the last two seasons. Has terrific pace and could do a top job for the team in the likes of Pearse Stadium or Croke Park – if they get there! He is a good marker and he did a superb man-marking job on Micheal Meehan last Sunday in the senior league. He has weaknesses, but with some guidance and support from management, he could be a real attacking asset from wing-back.

6. Niall Coyne – Carna/Caiseal

Like a fish out of water at corner back during the league, he hates being there which is never a great starting point for any player However he could impress at centre back as his physical presence and honesty are real assets. He would relish playing a holding role and deserves a chance to shine.

7. Gary Sice – Corofin

Relax, relax would ye: This is NOT a pick the Corofin lads’ thing – and to be fair Sice had a damn good championship season last year. He is a very committed footballer who picks up a lot of breaks and offers a lot going forward from number seven. Obviously he would face tough competition from the likes of young David Reilly, Darren Mullaghy and Declan Meehan, but Sice would and will get the nod.

8. Gareth Bradshaw – Moycullen

Had a stinker against Mayo in the league when he played like a candidate for a new Spec-saver advertisement in the second half, but he is a quality player and would bring the attributes of work-rate, ball-carrying ability, a great engine, scoring potential, and a man to support both defence and attack. Bradshaw would also do a terrific job at centre-back as he showed when marking Kerry’s Declan O’Sullivan in the league. However his enthusiasm and dynamism is needed in the engine room of the team.

9. Paul Conroy – St James

Yes, yes, yes – I know he is still very young and it is asking a lot of him, but he is very comfortable in possession and can pick out quality passes to his forwards. He was the main man and captain on the All-Ireland winning minor team of two years ago and he would revel in the space of midfield. Long term he is one of the best options in the county at midfield – so give him his head and see how he gets on.

10. Joe Bergin – Mountbellew/Moylough

Joe would provide an option at wing-forward for Faherty to hit with a few kick-outs during the game and his rangy style would allow him to get through some of the necessary defensive work required now from all inter-county wing-forwards. He could withdraw a little from wing-forward which would leave some more space for Padraic Joyce in the corner. Bergin would also be expected to weigh in with a few points per match too to pay his way.

11. Cormac Bane – Caherlistrane

We have seen Bane play exceptionally well for Caherlistrane in the centre-forward position at club level and he is worth a go there for the county too. He can score from distance and in a man-of-the-match display he notched up 2-1 against Mayo in the 2007 championship in Pearse Stadium. He would have to concentrate on his work-rate, looking up and hitting earlier passes and tracking of the centre-back, but he has potential

12. Damien Dunleavy – Kilkerrin/Clonberne

He has been dogged by injury over the past few seasons, but if he could get a reasonable run of games together, he is a very fine footballer. Damien can kick points from distance and works hard at picking up breaks around the midfield area. He has always impressed when he has been injury free.

13. Padraic Joyce – Killererin

I would relocate the triple All Star winner to top of the right and allow him the scope to come out now and again to have an influence on proceedings. In my opinion – and sport is all about opinions – Padraic is not the man for number 11 any more. He could still kick three or four points or bag a goal from the inside line, and if fed the right ball, very few corner backs would fancy an hour in his company.

14. Michael Meehan – Caltra

A genuine Galway supporter described his contribution to the team over the past few months as follows: “The day Michael Meehan is missing from this team we may as well stay at home.”

15. Nicky Joyce – Killererin

A straight shoot-out here between Nicky J and Sean Armstrong, and while Armstrong has improved enormously in the past few months, I still think Nicky on form poses a serious threat to most defences. For him to be selected though, he has to be completely injury free and working really hard on his game.When he does that, he is a fine player who is well able to hit high tallies.


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