Galway’s fringe players have change to shine in league’s opener

Tomás Ó Flathárta will lead Galway into the first round of the National Football League on Sunday (2.30pm ) against Monaghan knowing his side will have to improve on the form they showed in the FBD league if they are to collect the two points on offer.

Monaghan are never easy to beat at home and they have some talented players, although they will be without many of them this Sunday which gives Galway a good opportunity to take advantage.

New Monaghan manager Eamonn McEaneaney will be without Tommy Freeman, Vincent Corey, Darren Hughes, Damien Freeman, Rory Woods and Owen Lennon. All those players would normally be first-choice starters for their county in the league and championship and their absence is a boost for Galway’s chances of success.

Monaghan lost all their four recent games in the McKenna Cup and the mood is dark and pessimistic in the county about their chances of success this year, especially after the anticipation and excitement of the Banty McEnaney years.

They played Crossmaglen Rangers in a challenge last week and many fringe players were given another chance to impress. Of course the fact that Galway will be without three of their best attackers, Michael Meehan, Padraic Joyce and Nicky Joyce, does not help Galway’s chances of getting anything from the trip, and the absence of the St James’ contingent, Paul Conroy and Eoin Concannon also weakens the side.

Ó Flathárta will look to Matt Clancy, Sean Armstrong and Cormac Bane to shoot the necessary scores. The team will not be announced until later in the week, but it is likely Jonathan Ryan (Kilkerrin/Clonberne ), Kieran McGrath (Corofin ) and Cillín De Paor (Carraroe ) will be given starting jerseys after impressing in the FBD campaign.

In the corresponding fixture last year Galway defeated Monaghan by 1-20 to 1-14 in Pearse Stadium under the departed Joe Kernan. However Monaghan had two players harshly sent off in that game and it was a tie that could have gone either way.

The game has been fixed for Inniskeen, as Clones is normally kept now for championship games which will mean a long journey for the dedicated few Galway supporters who will make the trek.

The expectations are low in our county this year and many believe the Tribesmen will struggle to maintain their division one status. In that context, a victory next Sunday could be crucial for survival. The word from Monaghan is that the mood is also low in their camp and in that context an away victory is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

At this time of year, attributes like hunger, desire and will to win are worth a lot. Games in the muck and gutter of February are usually won by the panel of players who want it more and from that perspective it will be interesting to see how Galway perform.

• Galway are away to Down in the next round of the league too, on Sunday February 20, and their first home game is against Mayo in Tuam Stadium, the following week, February 27.

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