Galway senior footballers travel to Monaghan on Sunday for a relegation play-off against the Farney County (3.45pm ).
Remaining in division one will be essential for the development of the large group of young players Padraic Joyce has brought into his squad over the past two seasons, and Galway must continue their resurgence since the trouncing they took in Killarney.
After the contentious decision by the GAA to have home and away fixtures for both league semi-finals and relegation play-offs, Donegal, Derry and Cavan have all agreed to play their fixtures at neutral venues. The same cannot be said of Monaghan and Armagh as both sides have retained their home fixtures for this weekend’s division one relegation matches. It is a decision sure to irk Galway management even further after Joyce made his views clear right after his side’s loss to Dublin.
Yet this Galway side will head to Clones in full confidence - having run the All-Ireland champions close for 73 minutes in Tuam Stadium despite the late withdrawal of Damien Comer. The introduction of Finnian O’Laoi in a sweeper role has paid huge dividends, and he will be a vital cog in the wheel again if Galway are to stop ball getting into Conor McManus and the in-form Conor McCarthy.
With players such as Rory Beggan in goal, Drew Wylie, the Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, adding to the fire power up front, Banty McEnaney’s Mnaghan have huge levels of experience in grinding out results. It is an outfit much more experienced than many of Galway’s players, ensuring Galway’s captain Shane Walsh, Paul Conroy, Liam Silke and Johnny Heaney will all need to stand up and be counted to ensure their side does not face the drop to division two for next year.
Walsh put in a glittering performance against Dublin, scoring 10 points in total, and Joyce will need more of the same from his star player. However, Comer’s strength and direct running with his eye for goal will be a huge loss for the Tribesmen in this game as he is expected to remain side-lined after picking up a hand injury against Roscommon. Some good news on the injury front, however, is that last year’s All-Ireland U20 winning captain Jack Glynn is expected to be fit after injuring his elbow in the previous game.
The performance of Peter Cooke against Dublin is also a massive boost for his team after an expected rusty performance against Kerry. Alongside Conroy on Sunday, the battle to win their own kick outs will be more important than ever against a side which is capable of retaining possession for long periods of time.
Seán Mulkerrin at full back is improving with every game, while Corofin duo Dylan McHugh and Kieran Molloy are looking more comfortable in a maroon jersey with every passing minute.
After a spectacular performance against Roscommon, Rob Finnerty struggled against Dublin, and he will need to improve again if he is to fire his side to safety. This is a Galway side beginning to find its feet, but a win on Sunday is a must to keep the upward trajectory heading into a Connacht semi-final in just three weeks’ time.