Galway have the forwards and impact subs to win another Connacht crown

Key marksman Damien Comer will be hoping to run riot again.
				Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Key marksman Damien Comer will be hoping to run riot again. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Following the hurlers' success in winning the Leinster title, the onus is on Kevin Walsh's squad to try to replicate that provincial win when they take on Roscommon in Pearse Stadium this Sunday (2pm )

The 2017 Connacht final is a repeat of last year's provincial decider which Galway won well in McHale Park by 3-16 to 0-14 after a replay.

Since then Roscommon have been relegated from division one, while Galway were crowned division two champions and will ply their trade in the top flight next January.

Galway will be aware Roscommon and Kevin McStay will have targeted this game for a long time, having enjoyed the easier side of the draw and knowing they were always likely to find themselves in the provincial final, regardless of whether it was Galway or Mayo.

The Roscommon team was announced last weekend in a show of conviction and has some exciting forwards in its ranks, such as team captain Ciaráin Murtagh, Enda Smith, Diarmuid Murtagh, and Brian Stack at corner forward.

The Galway defence held firm in the last quarter against Mayo in the semi-final and kept them scoreless for the last 10 minutes or more, and that type of controlled aggression and tracking back by the half-back line and wing-forwards will be needed to keep those lively Roscommon forwards in check.

The Galway team will be announced later in the week, but there is not likely to be many changes from the starting 15 that beat Mayo.

Annaghdown's Eoghan Kerin, who normally lines out at corner back, is back to full fitness, and he and players such as Michael Farragher and Cillian McDaid will give options to the management team if they do want to make any changes at the back. Johnny Heaney, who had a fine game against Mayo, could also be relocated from wing-forward to defensive duties if required.

One big positive of Kevin Walsh's tenure as manager is that the panel is far stronger than it was a few years ago with options for positions all over the field now.

The men coming off the bench are adding a lot to the mix and there is plenty of healthy competition for places which is the way it should be in any successful set-up.

Picking the starting team is difficult

Team selection is becoming difficult for management which is a point Kevin Walsh made recently in Loughgeorge.

"When we sat down a few weeks ago to pick the team before the Mayo match, it was definitely the hardest job we had to do in our two years. It was difficult. It was not easy for the players that were being told they weren’t going to start, and also to the players who didn’t even get to tog out on the day.

" It’s tough. And it was the same right through the league. In nearly every single match this year you can look back and say the subs made a difference and they’re starting to see that now, which is crucial, and they believe they all have a chance of getting in."

It is a great way for a panel to be and it is the only way Galway will keep progresssing and be able to go on and challenge the top teams in the country.

And no doubt with 25 or 20 or 15 or five minutes to go next Sunday, Galway will need fresh legs - and impact subs to come off the bench to add impetus to their challenge.

And if they are not in the starting 15 - then players like Gary Sice, Eamonn Brannigan Danny Cummins, Michael Lundy, Barry McHugh or perhaps Michael Meehan could be sprung to turn the game Galway's way.

Quality up front

Galway have quality up front and if experienced players such as Paul Conroy, Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Tom Flynn can get enough possession around the middle third and feed it into men like Damien Comer, who ran riot last year and may be double marked on Sunday, a rejuvenated Seán Armstrong, Michael Daly and Shane Walsh - then I would contend Roscommon do not have the defence to keep them out.

The reality is this Galway senior squad needs to and wants to win this provincial title to maintain the progress they have made.

They need to get back to Croke Park and test themselves again in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

The last time a Galway team won back-to-back provincial titles was 2002 and 2003 and now is a good opportunity to change that statistic.

If Galway are absolutely focused, treat Roscommon with respect, looking no further than 2pm on Sunday, and go out and perform to their utmost capabilities - then they should have too much for the visitors.

It will be a tough challenge, but one that Galway are good enough to meet head on, and win.


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