The Galway Tribesmen opened their 2021 campaign with a visit from old rivals Dublin City Exiles.
The two teams had not meet since 2019 in the All-Ireland semi-final due to the truncated ‘Covid’ season last year, but the rivalry was pronounced from the first minute with both sides demonstrating robust defence in the initial exchanges.
After the disappointing defeat to Monaghan and subsequent relegation, there are three main areas on which the team and management must focus to have a chance of a successful 2021 championship.
Padraic Joyce must be applauded for trying to get Galway playing exciting football again, which they certainly are, but the constant effort to press as many players forward as possible has led to Galway conceding some heavy scores.
So far in 2021 Galway have conceded an average of just under 24 points a game, shipping 4-21, 1-13, 2-16 and 1-21 across their four league matches. There is no question Galway does have defenders that are good enough, but the defence as a unit needs to get meaner and stop giving away so many scoreable opportunities.
The redeployment of Finian Ó’Laoi in a sweeper role helped stem the tide after the Kerry game, but the high scores kept coming against the Galway side.
This was most evident in the Monaghan game where there were too many ‘tired’ looking shots taken, with some relatively easy chances being missed or dropped into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Before being taken off with five minutes to go both Shane Walsh and Robert Finnerty missed chances that would certainly have killed the game off. Both players were Galway’s best scoring options throughout the league and were probably right to shoot given the options at the time, but these scores still need to be taken.
On another occasion Johnny Heaney fluffed his lines when a goal looked certain. Without being critical of the players, Galway simply cannot afford to be missing these chances if their summer is going to last beyond July 4.
While Galway do not appear to have a problem getting the ball forward, on many occasions they seem to fall into the trap of running the ball into the corner and having to recycle the play. This recycling of play for any team is slow and allows the opposition a chance to set up their defensive structure.
Smart running off the shoulder and playing the ball through the channels allows Galway to play the quick attacking football the manager Padraic Joyce wants to see.
Football is a simple game, and if Galway can make these changes with the running ability of players such as Shane Walsh, Damien Comer and Seán Kelly, they can potentially go a long way in this year’s race for Sam Maguire.
Senior club league football starts again this weekend with Milltown playing Corofin on Friday. All teams across division 1A, 1, 2A and 2B will be in actionthe weekend, and it will be interesting to see how teams fare in this return to competitive action without their county players.
Kilkerrin-Clonberne ladies made it three Connacht titles in a row last Saturday by winning the 2020 final in a facile victory against St Nathy’s on a score line of 2-26 to 0-02. The team scored 1-13 in each half with player of the match Olivia Divilly scoring 0-8, 0-4 in each half.
Strong running by Tribesmen Matthew Towey and Mata Fifita and helped the Tribesmen gain good field position, but bruising tackling from the Exiles, led by Denny McCarthy and captain Barry Treanor, thwarted the Galway men’s advances. A break down the left-hand channel by the Exiles resulted in scrumhalf Matt Kennerson crossing the white wash after seven minutes to put the Exiles in front, with Kennerson also converting for a 6-0 lead.
However, the Tribesmen quickly reacted. An organized set of six, followed by some clever footwork, led scrum half Ryan Guilfoyle to score for the Galway men, but it was quickly followed by an intercept try from Kennerson to put them 12-4 ahead.
The Galway men continued to pressurise and good link play between halfbacks Liam Marmion and Guilfoyle allowed substitute Barry Walsh to cross for a try. Enjoying a sustained period of pressure, the Tribesmen's Abdulhag Abayomi crossed the line to score a try.
The Exiles, however, refused to relinquish their grip. and some strong running resulted in a scoring chance for centre Will Weaver. With the try converted the scores were 18-8 to the Exiles and this was how the half finished.
As the ferocity of the tackles continued, Galway lost influential Marmion with injury, and the Dubliners capitalised to extend the lead 24-8.
The Tribesmen managed to claw back another try with a great individual effort from Daithi Joyce from acting halfback, but from the restart the Exiles regained control for a 34-18 victory.
The first team's next game is against current All Ireland champions ‘The Longhorns’ from Co Meath in two weeks, while the second team face the reformed Waterford Vikings at Southpark, The Claddagh, on Saturday at 2pm.