The Galway footballers will head up the N17 next Saturday to Markievicz Park (6pm kick-off ) knowing that only a big improvement all around the field will see them getting to a Connacht final date with Roscommon on July 18.
Sligo, understandably, were tremendously deflated after coughing up 1-02 in the last few minutes last Sunday and drawing a game they had looked likely to win for the preceding 70 minutes.
Despite that, Sligo manager Kevin Walsh will have told his charges a fair few times this week that they can and will do better on home turf.
He will drill it into his panel that they beat Mayo in Markievicz in the championship this year and that they can beat Galway there too.
Sligo will not fear the maroon and white men this Saturday evening and, based on what Joe Kernan’s team produced last weekend, especially in the first half, who could blame them?
There can be no denying that the first 35 minutes last Sunday in the Connacht semi-final was one of the worst displays by a Galway team in championship football for a long time.
It left people shocked and perplexed as to how a team that has been training diligently for the past six months could be so sluggish and lacking any degree of cohesiveness.
Well-known GAA supporter Prionsias Kitt asked me to join him for a cup of tea under the stand at half-time, but I was in such a state of disbelief after the paucity of Galway’s first-half efforts that I could not bring myself to go anywhere.
To be honest I had to munch through a chocolate bar just to get the blood flowing again and try to make sense of being nine points down at home against Sligo and playing like a bunch of lads that had met in the car park before the game.
Losing by nine points (1-08 to 0-2 ) at that stage it was difficult to find any silver lining in Galway’s inept display. The Sligo midfielders and their half-forwards were snapping up so much possession in the last 20 minutes of the first half that Galway were lucky not to be behind by more at half time.
Sligo also shot six wides and had four or five poor efforts that fell short into the Adrian Faherty’s hands. The reality is that they could have been out of sight at the small whistle.
Galway deserve credit for fight back
The Galway lads deserve credit for keeping going the entire second half and pulling off a draw.
The game looked out of their reach until Padraig Joyce combined splendidly with Owen Concannon and the St James’ man shot a superb goal past Philip Greene. Many teams might have thrown in the towel earlier, but prompted by the patient and efficient brilliance of Joyce and Michael Meehan’s contribution when he came on, and a sterling display by Finian Hanley at full back, the team pulled themselves back from the abyss.
The draw came about as a result of a combination of Galway’s resilience and Sligo’s lack of ruthlessness and ambition when all they needed was a point or two to close out the game.
Sligo would have been better served giving their free man Eamonn O’Hara a role further up the field, allowing him play as the extra man closer to his midfield, as it was Galway who won all the possession for the last 25 minutes.
Galway outscored Sligo 1-06 to 0-1 in that period, but by pushing O’Hara forward, rather than having him marking space in front of Harrison, Donovan and McGuire, Sligo could have broken Galway’s dominance and spirit.
The Galway management team has some hard selection decisions to make for Saturday and there has to be a strong desire to start Michael Meehan if his knee had no adverse reaction to his return to competitive action. Gary O’Donnell and Paul Conroy may come under pressure to hold their starting jerseys after displays with which neither could have been enamoured.
Alan Burke took criticism too for his display on David Kelly, but two points to note are that Kelly is a superb footballer and, secondly, when you have no cover in front of you and you are being cleaned at midfield for long periods of time, corner back is a lonely spot. That said, he got turned too easily for Kelly’s superbly-taken goal and if he is picked for Saturday, he will be keen to keep the Tubbercurry man on a closer rein.
Bradshaw showed composure
Gareth Bradshaw, who was just back from a long layoff with a quad injury, showed steely nerve and character to slot over the final equalising free. It was not an overly difficult kick, but knowing that it was the final kick of the day and that a miss would see Galway defeated would have preyed on most players.
For Galway to win next Saturday they need a lot more of their players to be much more aggressive to win crucial breaks and be more composed in possession. The amount of times Galway gave away the ball cheaply and from their own free kicks was unreal.
Beating Sligo on Saturday will not be easy, but after stealing a draw they will know what they have to do. Perhaps with 70 minutes of hard football under their belts we will see an improved display.
The leaders on the team need to demand an improved performance and especially the central diamond from numbers five to number 12. The reward for winning on Saturday is huge, a Connacht final and perhaps a direct route to Croke Park.
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