Galway face a huge test in McHale Park on Sunday

Shane Walsh of Galway’s half-forward line, in action against Sligo, will face a big test on Sunday against Mayo in the Connacht Football Senior Championship final at McHale Park . Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Shane Walsh of Galway’s half-forward line, in action against Sligo, will face a big test on Sunday against Mayo in the Connacht Football Senior Championship final at McHale Park . Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

The good news for Alan Mulholland and his management team before they face Mayo next Sunday in McHale Park (2pm ) in the Connacht final is that niggling injuries to Shane Walsh, Joss Moore, James Kavanagh and team captain Paul Conroy have all cleared up and all men are available for selection for Sunday's clash.

The team is due to be announced tonight (Thursday ) and it will be interesting to see if Conroy is brought straight back into the starting 15, or held in reserve as a major impact sub.

Assuming Conroy is selected to start, and in my opinion he should be, the question is who would make way for him up front? Michael Martin?  Damien Comer?

At the other end of the field it is probable that Joss Moore will slot into a corner back slot in place of Aonghus Tierney as he had been in terrific form prior to his injury and looked back to himself in Mountbellew's recent championship game.

Speaking to Alan Mulholland earlier in the week, he was giving nothing away about his starting 15, apart from acknowledging that it is great to have genuine options in both defence and up front.

"It is what you want in the run-up to a Connacht final - to have everyone available. Picking the starting team will not be easy for Paul [Clancy], Declan [Meehan] or myself, and there are tough calls to be made. However, we expect to use our full complement of five subs in most championship games and it is great to have experienced and talented players who can come off the bench and make an impact.

“Championship football is a 20 man game now and unless you have lads who can come in and make a real positive contribution, it is very difficult to win games."

Galway are on the back of two wins over London and Sligo and Mulholland is happy with the mood in the Galway camp.

"It is all systems go now ahead of Sunday. Mayo will be a massive step up for us and we know that. They are a very experienced outfit and they have been in the last two All-Ireland finals, but we have achieved our early season goal of getting into a Connacht final and we have to take things a stage further now.

"The mood is very good and we are delighted that so many of the niggling injuries have cleared up. Keith Kelly [Ballinasloe] is also making good progress and we are going to McHale Park in a very positive frame of mind.

We have to go down there to win a Connacht title and we have to be ready for a much higher level of intensity than anything we have experienced this year so far. We are expecting nothing easy, but we believe in our panel and, if things go well for us, who knows what can happen."

Mulholland will not need any reminding of the calamitous start Galway had last year against the same opposition in Pearse Stadium before going down to a heavy defeat. The memory of Donal Vaughan kicking the ball into an empty Galway net in particular, is still too visible for most Galway supporters.

Galway will need to keep things tight in the first quarter and avoid any unnecessary turnovers which were their ruination last year.

If they are still in the game at half time and have learnt from Roscommon who tore into Mayo with power, pace and real hunger in their semi-final, then they give themselves a fighting chance.

The last thing they want to allow happen is for Mayo to build up a head of steam and get four or five points ahead and start to really tear into the Galway defence. Keep it simple and really tight at the start has to be Galway's motto.

If Galway are to cause what would be a massive upset, they will need immense performances from the spine of their team, in particular Finian Hanley, Gary O' Donnell, Fintán Ó Curraoin, Tom Flynn, while up front guys like Shane Walsh, Danny Cummins and Eddie Hoare will have to be clinical if given chances.

Mulholland's bookies have Galway as rank outsiders at 7/2, with Mayo at 2/9. Galway are 11/10 at plus four, with Mayo at 5/6 at minus four, which tells you all you need to know about what most predictors and bookies believe.

While it would be fantastic to see Galway win their first Connacht title since 2008, based on their respective form and performances over the past few years and in league football, it is impossible to predict anything except a home win for James Horan's men.


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