Padraic Joyce’s Galway will move straight into the Connacht final after Sligo were forced to withdraw from the championship campaign due to Covid-19.
The two sides were due to meet in Saturday afternoon’s semi-final in Pearse Stadium, but Sligo, after reporting a number of Covid cases in its squad, said it had withdrawn from the semi-final.
According to Sligo GAA, it took the decision to withraw due to “unforseen circumstances of players testing positive for Covid-19 and other players deemed as close contacts”, making it impossible to fulfil the fixture.
“The county board executive, along with the players and management are extremely upset at having to make this decision.”
Pat Kearney, chairman of Galway GAA, says it is hugely disappointing for everybody involved.
“We’re living in unprecedented times. We’ve been in contact with Sligo GAA over the last two days and would like to wish them all the very best.” he says.
“The Galway Senior Football team will continue with their training this week with all their focus now on the Connacht final on Sunday week. Galway GAA will be making no further comment on this matter.”
Sligo’s Paul Taylor and his management team, along with the panel of 32 players, have been working together since September.
According to a statement, the players are “hugely disappointed at not having the option of a re-fixture, while understanding that in these unusual times it is not possible to take part this coming weekend”.
“All affected by Covid-19 findings are following the requisite HSE guidelines and we are glad to report doing well at this time.”
The Connacht final is scheduled for November 15, and there had been some hopes it could be postponed to allow the Sligo game to be played, particularly as the other three provinces’ deciders are taking place the following weekend. However, Galway will now head straight into a final against either Roscommon or Mayo in a season that has been like no other.
Championship in 2020 is also straight knockout so there are no second chances, so Galway still needs to win every game if they are to be crowned All-Ireland champions this year - a stated aim of manager Padraic Joyce.
Winning the Connacht championship, however, and getting their hands back on the JJ Nestor Cup is the first goal which must be reached.
Sligo were to be the first obstacle. The Yeats men have endured a difficult season as they finished in sixth position in the bottom division of the football league, and it was difficult to see Galway getting turned over in their own back yard.
Successive losses to Dublin and Mayo have soured what was a successful league campaign up to that point. The manner of the loss to Mayo was most concerning to players, management and followers of Galway football.
The result and more importantly the performance put serious doubts on Galway’s All-Ireland credentials. Certain elements of the Mayo game were addressed in the following week’s fixture with Dublin, but significant improvement in all areas will be required if Padraic Joyce and co are to reach the promised land for the first time since 2001.
There are still big decisions for the management team, one of those is who will be handed the number one jersey - a recurring theme for Galway over the last number of years. Bernard Power replaced Connor Gleeson in goal for the Dublin game and his kick outs were a significant improvement on the Dunmore shot-stoppers against Mayo. Gleeson had been in goal throughout the league and is an imposing figure in the small square.
The full-back line has been chopped and changed with only Moycullen’s Sean Kelly seeming to be a certainty to play in the last line of defence. Sean Mulkerrin impressed at times during the league, but will have to wait and see if he gets the nod for his championship debut.
Galway have a plethora of options in the half back line in the form of Gary O’Donnell, Liam Silke, Cillian McDaid, Gareth Bradshaw, Johnny Heaney and Johnny Duane, but they have not found the best combination yet, while Corofin’s Dylan Wall will miss the championship campaign through injury.
There is a midfield issue at the moment with Ronan Steede out injured. They were cleaned out against Dublin at midfield, and unless Steede returns, Galway appear to be under serious pressure in that area.
In the forwards there are injury concerns over Damien Comer and Ian Burke. Comer looks set to miss out on a championship season yet again with a hamstring injury, while Burke took a knock from James McCarthy in the Dublin game. However, there are ample options up front, with Paul Conroy in the form of his life and Shane Walsh to come back into the side.