After such a positive 2022 season Galway will begin their attempt to return to the All-Ireland final this coming Friday in the University of Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome.
The opening round game of the Connacht FBD League against Leitrim throws in at 7pm, and Galway supporters will be excited to see what new players Padraic Joyce has introduced to his squad for the 2023 season.
However he will be without the services of the Moycullen contingent, along with Dunmore’s Connor Gleeson and Kilmacud Crokes’ Shane Walsh due to club commitments. And this season Joyce will also have to deal with the loss of the dynamic Corofin duo Liam Silke (travelling ) and Kieran Molloy (injured ).
This game may be very different from last year’s Connacht semi-final, but as happened in 2022, momentum is gained with a positive start to the year.
Galway defeated Mayo and Roscommon to win the FBD competition last year, and from there they enjoyed a massively positive run in the league, winning promotion back to division one before the final group game. Despite losing the last game and the final a week later, both to Roscommon, Galway arrived into the championship full of confidence and made it to the All-Ireland final for the first time in 21 years. The Galway players and management are sure to try to set out a marker on Friday evening and start the year just as impressively this year.
Galway are sure to try out new players as this is what pre-season competitions are for, but some experience will be needed throughout the team. The return of Damien Comer from his travels in time for the inter-country season is a huge boost for Joyce and his management team, and after missing pre-season training, these would be valuable minutes for the Annaghdown man.
Former All-Star Ian Burke is also back in training with the Galway squad as one of eight new arrivals to the extended panel. Burke will be hoping to prove his importance to the squad once again. Of Burke and the other arrivals, Joyce says they are "on trial basically until January 1.
"We’ll see where they’re at. If they come up to the level and show a huge interest and a keenness to be there, we’ll certainly look at them and add them to the squad. It’s up to them; the ball is in their court," he says.
This coming weekend will be Galway and Leitrim’s first FBD meeting since 2018 when Galway won by 3-6 to 0-8 in atrocious conditions in Clonbur, and current Moycullen captain Dessie Conneely scored two goals.
The winners of this Friday’s game will play Mayo, under Kevin McStay and his management team, next week in the semi-final. A second competitive pre-season game for Galway would be ideal before their return to division one football at the end of the month.