Footballers survive to play in division two next year

The good news first.

Galway produced a gutsy and solid performance in Monaghan last Sunday and probably should have won the tie only for a high wide tally and a most preventable red card for goalkeeper Thomás Healy.

And while they were defeated by a single late Paul Finlay point, 0-13 to 0-12, they thankfully avoided relegation to division three as a result of Donegal beating Armagh.

It was a close shave. Alan Mulholland's team stayed up courtesy of their win over Armagh in Tuam two weeks ago, as in the head-to-head, it was the Orchard men who took the bitter relegation pill.

The bad news is that this was a game Galway should have won, and at a minimum achieved a draw. However they shot too many poor wides and lacked a bit of composure and punch up front.

The side also lacks a really natural and efficient free taker in the Bryan Sheehan (Kerry ), Bernard Brogan and Stephen Cluxton (Dublin ) or Cillian O' Connor (Mayo ) mode and that will always be costly in tight games. And even more so come championship.

It is a skill that has to be worked at really diligently and consistently by a few players over the coming weeks and months and supported by management.

A team without a top-class and consistent free-taker will always struggle to compete at the top level.

Galway had to line out without Fiontán Ó Curraoin in Clones (hamstring injury ) and the big Micheal Breathnach's player was a loss, but team captain Paul Conroy had a fine game in his more natural position at midfield.

Looking towards the championship, would the management team be wise to deploy the St James’ man, and probably the team's best passer and most creative player in possession, in that position, alongside Ó Curraoin and perhaps pick Tom Flynn in a wing-forward position supporting the midfielders?

Elsewhere, Gary O' Donnell continued his fine form and put down another firm marker for the number six jersey for the upcoming championship when he was very brave and effective in the centre-back role.

The Tuam Stars man has his critics, but no one can doubt his commitment and workrate and he is becoming a real leader in the squad.

It was upfront mainly that Galway had difficulties, and when you consider that five of the starting forwards were subbed out, it tells its own story.

Admittedly Micheal Martin was replaced in a tactical move to get Manus Breathnach on for the red-carded Tomás Healy.

While team manager Alan Mulholland was disappointed to lose at Clones, he was pleased to have turned things around considerably in their last four games after being zero from six after the first three games.

"There is relief that we have held onto our division two status as we really didn't want to drop down a division. From the Down match on, we have really stepped up our performances. And we really should have won our last four games. We were caught late against both Louth and Monaghan, but the last four games have been very encouraging. We have to sit down now and plan for the game with London on May 25."

In that context, it will be interesting to see if any new faces will be brought into the championship squad over the next few weeks.

Corofin's Ian Burke is a player who could add a bit of panache and scoring power to the forwards and it will be interesting to see if last year's u-21 star of the future is available or required for the upcoming Connacht championship.

Galway are due to face London in Ruislip on May 25 and the winners take on Sligo in June 21 at Markievicz Park.

However for this week, there is just relief that we will not be facing trips to locations like Wexford, Limerick, Fermanagh, Tipperary and Clare for division three in 2015.

We remain in division two and the eight teams in that division next year will be Roscommon, Cavan, Kildare, Westmeath, Down, Laois, Meath and Galway.

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