Massive improvement needed if footballers are to avoid Royal exit

The Galway footballers head up the road to Navan to take on Meath in the qualifiers on Saturday (7pm ) and the few loyal maroon supporters who travel will do so more in hope than expectation.

Unfortunately the mood around the county among the football fraternity is despondent after another humiliating defeat to Mayo.

While Barrack Obama coined the phrase - “Is féidir linn” - on his recent trip, most pragmatic Galway fans who might utter it in their cars going up the motorway may only do so in an effort to keep the kids believing as long as possible.

Unless the Galway players and management show a colossal improvement all over the field from their display in the second half against Mayo, then the 2011 championship will be over in the second week in July.

For there to be any hope of success against a Meath outfit which hit 5-8 against Louth the last day out, there will have to some major readjustments made to the Galway team that was picked to face Mayo.

The Galway team is to be selected and announced tonight (Thursday ), but there are some changes that need to be made.

Team captain Finian Hanley must be put back into the full back line, either at number three or two. He does not even look like a second cousin of a genuine midfielder and, having watched him at centre-back against Mayo in the league, that position is not for him either. It’s the full back line or nothing.

Colin Forde had a solid game at full-back against Mayo and it is just a matter of deciding which of them would suit big Paddy O’Rourke or Cian Ward better.

It is time to go with horses for courses and both Forde and Hanley will have to produce the goods in front of Adrian Faherty at the back if Meath are to be kept at bay.

Johnny Duane was impressive enough against Mayo at left corner and he will probably stay with the number four for Saturday.

In the half back line, they could go with a combination of Gareth Bradshaw (who is not a forward ), Diarmuid Blake, and Alan Burke who could be the man to pick up Graham Reilly who is a speedster.

Gary Sice could be relocated to number 10 where he could forage for breaks and he is well capable of kicking a few points. He has played in that position with his club for a good few years and it would not be at all new to him.

Midfield is difficult to call and their options there probably lie between Joe Bergin, Fionntán Ó Curraion and Greg Higgins.

Up front Sice, Matt Clancy, Paul Conroy could form the half forward line with Eoin Concannon or Danny Cummins in the corner and Padraic Joyce and Cormac Bane filling the other shirts. They have Michael Meehan, Mark Hehir and Michael Boyle to come on and add something up front as the game progresses.

Trying to double guess a team that Tomás Ó Flatharta will select may be folly, but hopefully he will select players who are used to playing in the positions in which they are selected.

Galway are big outsiders for Saturday and rightly so. Meath are at home.

They are on the back of a solid win over Louth and they will have a fair bit of confidence going into the tie compared to their opponents. That said, they are no world beaters and their defence is suspect.

Hopefully the Galway panel can surprise people and there will be a backlash from the Mayo defeat.

Few expected the team to go to Armagh and win in the league and yet they did, and perhaps there is a kick in them yet.

De Paor hopeful

Galway team selector Seán Óg De Paor hopes the team can produce a big performance against Meath on Saturday night in Navan.

“All of us in the Galway camp were incredibly disappointed by the display against Mayo. It is understandable how the Galway supporters who travelled to McHale Park were very upset with our second-half display. Everyone on the panel and management knows it was an unacceptable performance and if we play like that against Meath, we will lose too.”

The 1998 and 2001 All-Ireland winner is pleased with the draw that pits them against last year’s Leinster champions as it has helped to focus everyone’s minds on the task ahead.

“We were very down for a few days, but we have refocused over the past 10 days and are looking forward to the challenge in front of us on Saturday evening. We believe the team and panel are much better than we showed against Mayo.

“The players have worked exceptionally hard since last January and they know the effort they have made themselves. It is do or die on Saturday night. There is no safety net for any team now and we are hopeful for a really big performance. If they play as we know they can, we won’t be too far away.”


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