Footballers focused on performance to break losing streak at headquarters

On attack: Impressive Shane Walsh of Galway escapes Kildare's Con Cavanagh in Pearse Stadium on Sunday.			Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

On attack: Impressive Shane Walsh of Galway escapes Kildare's Con Cavanagh in Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

The Galway footballers head to Croke Park hoping to produce a big performance and collect a first league title since 1981 when they take on Kildare in the division two final on Sunday (2pm ).

A Galway senior football team has not had a victory in GAA headquarters in a long time - the All-Ireland final win in 2001 over Meath was the last senior success at the venue - and Kevin Walsh and his selectors, Seán Conlon and Brian Silke will be very keen this current squad produce a solid 70 minute display which will reap its reward.

They will be focusing this week on the team's performance, and letting the result take care of itself.

Galway defeated Kildare by 0-14 to 0-13 last Sunday in Pearse Stadium and that makes trying to predict Sunday's result rather difficult.

Galway looked quite nervous at times in that narrow win, and there was definite pressure on the team to make sure they did not lose out on promotion in front of a crowd of some 12,000.

Kildare's Cian O'Neill was able to try out a good few fringe players and there was nothing to be gained for them by winning, so they were able to throw in plenty of subs and have a go as they had already qualified for the final and division one next season.

With that kind of a backdrop, all Galway wanted was a positive result, and they did just enough to get one.

Shane Walsh impressive

It took a fair bit of leadership to achieve that victory, and Shane Walsh provided it in spades.

At a really crucial stage in the final quarter, and with Kildare having popped over a few points, Galway were under the hammer and losing was starting to become a possibility. However the Kilkerrin-Clonberne man won a Galway kick-out majestically in the air, got his mark, and then roared through the Lillies' defence to rifle over a point that settled Galway nerves.

It was a tremendous score at many levels, but the most pleasing aspect of it was the timing of his intervention and the leadership it showed.

No one can doubt his raw ability, pace and skill levels on the ball, but it has not always been matched by consistency and decision making.

Hopefully this Sunday in Croke Park, he will continue in what has been a tremendous vein of form over the past three weeks as he was also integral to the win over Down two weeks ago.

Another who did well up front was Eamon Brannigan, who has a tremendous work-rate, and hit 0-2 from play, while the returned Sean Armstrong did some good things too, raised two white flags from play, and he will be glad to have enjoyed 70 plus minutes of league action under his belt.

Gary Sice also worked hard and should have goaled in the last quarter when one-on-one with the Kildare keeper. The experienced Corofin man will have been disappointed to not have kept the shot on target at least and forced a save from Shane McNamara in the Kildare goal.

Galway's defence?

At the other end of the field Galway supporters will be a tad nervous this Sunday.

The Galway full-back line still looks at bit ropey, and it will be interesting to see who the management team start for the final with Declan Kyne available again after his suspension.

Sunday will also probably tell us a lot about Michael Farragher as an option at centre-back.

How he copes with the space of Croker in the middle of the Galway defence and with Kildare forwards running directly down the middle channel will be informative for the season ahead.

Kildare at full strength will be hard stopped, and in guys such as Fionn Dowling, Kevin Feely, Niall Kelly, Paul Cribbin and the lively Ben McCormack, they have some high quality players. However, that said, they were beaten by Clare in last year's division three final and Derry also beat them in the league this season.

Galway are on the back of three straight consecutive wins over Derry, Down and Kildare and the loyal maroon supporters who travel up the motorway on Sunday morning will have their fingers crossed their team can extend that run to four games and collect silverware in the process.

Galway have the forwards to make serious inroads on the opposition, and hopefully the defence and midfielders will hold tight, to set up what would be a very important win for the county.

•There will be extra time if the game ends in a draw and the game is live on TG4 from 2pm.


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