Despite a spirited second half comeback, Galway fell to old rivals Mayo in the FBD semi-final last weekend in the GAA Air Dome in Bekan.
Trailing by 10 points at the break, 2-9 to 0-5, Galway introduced four players at the start of the second half - Evan Murphy for his second appearance in as many weeks, Paul and Eoghan Kelly, the latter for his Galway debut, and the once again the impressive Tomo Culhane, who finished the game with 2-2 to his name.
However, conceding 2-9 and only scoring 0-5 in the first half will be a worry for Padraic Joyce, but he was encouraged with his side's second-half fight-back.
"In fairness to the lads in the second half, they put their shoulder to the wheel and put a bit of spirit back into it." he said.
Scoring 3-7, Galway brought the game to the stage when Nathan Grainger had a chance to put Galway in front in injury time, but his shot was stopped by Mayo’s Rory Byrne to prevent a ninth consecutive FBD final between Galway and Roscommon.
Mayo will now go on to play the Rossies, while Galway will have to lick their wounds before they play Mayo again in the first round of the national league on January 28.
Joyce, however, will not be too worried about the result, as he will be hoping to welcome back a number of players for the league encounter in Castlebar.
Damien Comer enjoyed 10 minutes of football, while just two of the Moycullen contingent were back, but captain Seán Kelly, Dessie Conneelly, Owen Gallagher and more are set to return to the fold, along with Dunmore keeper Connor Gleeson.
Shane Walsh will also return to the group after his club exploits with Kilmacud Crokes conclude this weekend. Walsh’s team will face Derry side, Glen, in the All-Ireland club final on Sunday afternoon. Glen defeated Moycullen in the semi-final, robbing Galway supporters the chance to see Walsh face up against a number of his county team mates in the final.
A total of 29 Galway players received game time during the FBD league, and Joyce says the two games gave himself and his management team the opportunity to run the rule over the players.
"We learned a lot about players. We learned about what players are up to it, and we learned about lads who are not up to it."
One huge boost to this Galway side was the return of Moycullen’s James McLaughlin for his first bit of game time since injuring his leg in the 2022 division two league final against Roscommon last April.
Debuts were given to eight different players across the two games - Daniel O’Flaherty, Matthew Barrett, Jack Kirrane, Brian Mannion, Darragh Varley, Tadhg O’Malley, Nathan Grainger and Eoghan Kelly. Also factored into this group of players would be the returning Ian Burke, Barry McHugh and John Maher.
As a pre-season tournament, this is the ideal opportunity to give players opportunities, and if Joyce finds one player for the league and championship, it will have been a successful couple of weeks. Eyes now turn to McHale Park and Galway’s return to division one on January 28.