Galway youngsters get last chance to shine before NFL opener

It is the January final everybody craved considering Galway and Roscommon have shown a keen interest in the 2009 Connacht FBD League.

On Sunday the two outfits meet in Tuam Stadium as Galway's blend of youth and experience comes up against a Roscommon outfit that is beginning to stir under Fergal O'Donnell's stewardship.

Eking out results in wretched winter conditions was necessary for Roscommon after the miserable suffering of 2008, and with O'Donnell providing a stabilising influence, hope has been restored. There is no shortage of optimism in Galway either as Liam Sammon’s side strolled through the FBD group stages with confidence and conviction.

Last Friday in front of a sizeable Loughgeorge audience GMIT were added to Galway's list of conquests that already includes Sligo and Leitrim. All three successes were achieved with youngsters mixing with established players, particularly the GMIT encounter, which Galway controlled, emerging 2-16 to 0-5 victors.

Selector Jimmy O'Dea was enthused: "We have tried to expose as many of the under 21s as we can to senior level. It will help us with the under -21s down the road.

"We have a lot of players who are coming back from injury and we have a couple of guys playing with some of the colleges, so this is an opportunity for other guys to come in.

"We have played a good few newcomers and introduced them to intercounty football. Some of them have stood up to it quite well and we have a lot more options than we had."

Choosing a starting XV for Sunday week's NFL opener with Westmeath will be a difficult challenge for Sammon and his selectors. Jonathan Ryan and Martin Coady, both impressive in the victories over Sligo and Leitrim, were granted a rest against GMIT as St James' promising forward Eoin Concannon bagged a brace of opportunistic goals.

With the Corofin contingent absent for another month at least, chances will continue to present themselves in the NFL and Galway's resources will be tested. Sammon is also managing the u-21 team which begins its Connacht Championship with a clash against Mayo on March 14. Galway are keen to be competitive and affording players a taste of senior football is helpful. Coady, Ryan, and Concannon are among a plethora of that squad who have been involved in the FBD.

While the Roscommon tussle carries importance, it is the February 1 Westmeath NFL match that is really dominating Galway's thoughts, according to O'Dea.

"That is what we are focused on at the moment - the first day of the league against Westmeath and we have to hit the ground running. It is division one and it is the place to be playing football and we are looking forward to playing all the top teams."

The FBD decider presents a challenge as Roscommon will be especially eager to issue a statement of intent in the north Galway town. Ros are always a danger when their minds are concentrated. How Galway deal with Roscommon's passion will be revealing as the teams seek further signs to be positive before spring and summer.


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