The Galway footballers and their hardy band of loyal supporters face the arduous journey to Casement Park to take on Antrim this Saturday (3pm ) in round two of the All Ireland qualifiers.
While considered an easy enough draw for Alan Mulholland’s men by some pundits, Galway selector Donal Ó Flatharta believes Liam Bradley’s team will pose a challenge for the visitors.
“It is never easy to beat teams at home in the qualifiers,” he says. “Antrim had a good win over London in round one and they will be trying to build on that result. We will have to be patient on the ball and they won’t be easy to break down. They play a lot of players behind the ball and we will have to work very hard for our scores.”
Ó Flatharta says after Galway’s disappointing defeat to Sligo, a big performance is needed.
“ It is five weeks since the Connacht semi-final and things have been going well at training over the past few weeks so we are hopeful of getting a winning performance on Saturday. The panel enjoyed a positive training camp in Cork and the hope is that the panel can build on those few days which were very constructive and gave everyone a chance to look ahead and set some new objectives for the qualifiers.”
Donal Ó Flatharta says if Galway win on Saturday it will give them belief, confidence and momentum for the next round.
“We have been focusing on what we need to do, more so than on Antrim and, if we play to what we are capable of, we expect to be in the draw for round three. It won’t be easy and Galway have not beaten any opposition from outside the province for a long time in a championship game, but we want to change that statistic this weekend.”
Galway have two injury worries with both Tomás Flynn and Niall Coleman struggling with knocks, but Galway captain Finian Hanley has recovered from his shoulder injury. The Galway team is due to be announced tonight (Thursday ) and there are expected to be a few changes from the starting side that faced Sligo.
Tomás Fahy, Conor Doherty and Fiontáin Ó Curraoin have all been going well at training and are considered likely starters for Saturday.
Seán Armstrong has also been lining out at centre-forward at training and challenge games and, if he is selected in that position, it would see a possible return to the full-forward line for Michael Meehan. Likewise if Tomás Fahy is picked in his customary wing-back role, it could see Gary O’Donnell moving to centre-back with Johnny Duane relocating to corner back, to the exclusion of either Kieran McGrath or Keith Kelly.
Whoever starts, or comes on during the tie, this can be filed as a “must-win” game for Galway. Victory equates to a chance of a mini-run in the qualifiers, while defeat would be a disappointing end to a championship season that promised so much after the big win over Roscommon in Hyde Park in the first round of the Connacht championship.