Galway announced their arrival once again as a formidable force on the inter-county football scene with a significant victory over, albeit a very lethargic looking, Roscommon side. I have met Alan Mulholland on quite a few occasions throughout the winter months through my involvement with NUI Galway and I always came away with the impression that this young manager knows what he is about.
He proved his mettle a few weeks ago when he dispensed with Nicky Joyce who, apparently, was not adhering to team discipline. Galway were 33/1 to win this year’s All-Ireland prior to last Sunday’s match, and unbelievably were freely available at 7/2 to win a Connacht title. These odds have been shortened considerably after Sunday’s victory as people begin to realise that Galway look to have the complete package. Many on the team have had success at underage level. Also, they have strengthened their resolve with a good league campaign, finishing third in division two with three good wins and two draws against quality opposition. They were very unfortunate to lose out to a late Kildare goal in their final match of the group stages, which denied them promotion and a place in the division two final. However failure to win that match has not dampened their enthusiasm in the slightest. Roscommon, on the other hand, played their football in division three and mixed the good with the ugly throughout the campaign, never really catching the eye with their mediocre form. For that reason alone, I was slightly perplexed to listen to a number of astute football men who suggested that Roscommon had a right good chance of upsetting the odds last Sunday. Des Newton, the Roscommon manager, came in for a lot of criticism in the post match commentary. I found it quite astonishing that he took his charges away for a weekend training camp to Donegal on the very same weekend that their u21s played Dublin in the All-Ireland final in Tullamore. This was one of the biggest matches in Roscommon’s recent history, involving a number of young talented up and coming players and the senior manager was not even there to see them play?! Not to mention that a few of the senior players had brothers playing with the under 21s? I cannot imagine this would have done much for the morale of the senior squad. On the other hand a large number of the Dublin senior players were over close to the Dublin dressing room door in Tullamore encouraging the young Dublin players to a great victory.
The unfortunate thing, from a Galway point of view, is that this result may not be a great indicator for them. It was so easy for Galway last Sunday that in fact it was not like a real championship contest. Roscommon did not look fit, were devoid of passion, and just did not appear to have any fighting spirit that would normally be associated with the Rossies. It will be a difficult number of weeks between now and the end of June before Roscommon discover who they will play through the back door. That back-door campaign should be used as an exercise to start afresh with as many of the u21s who gave a great account of themselves in the u21 campaign. Galway would have probably learned more had they played an A v B challenge match in Tuam stadium. Might they be the potential dark horses of the 2012 summer campaign?
Youth and experience the key
I climbed the Reek last week with Liam Sheedy the former Tipperary hurling manager. I got a fascinating insight into his views, not alone on this year’s hurling championship, but also the dynamics of his All-Ireland winning team of 2010. He thinks that the Dublin hurlers, for their sheer force of will, competitiveness, strength, and fitness will put it up to most teams this summer. Their recognised shortcoming, however, is their lack of craftsmanship in the basic fundamentals of the game, particularly in the white heat of championship.
For that reason alone Sheedy thinks they might just fall short, particularly when they come up against the Cats. He also suggested that his team would not have won the Liam McCarthy were it not for the mixture of youth and experience that he used throughout the campaign. He was lucky to be able to call up some fantastic underage talent, but said they would never have won the title without the few wise old experienced heads that had a huge settling effect on the youthful exuberance. He mentioned in particular Brendan Cummins, Benny Dunne, and Eoin Kelly as the ones who provided the guile and experience for their biggest test against Kilkenny in that year’s final.
Get on your bike
On Wednesday of this week I did a stage of the Rás from Westport to Bundoran for two good charities; AWARE and the National Breast Cancer Institute. This Race the Rás event was started last year by a number of former GAA footballers; Paul Earley and Declan Darcy and Eamon O’Muircheartaigh, to name but a few. More than €160,000 was raised last year. With Tesco on board this year, it is expected that this figure will be surpassed.
On the same day, Tómas Tierney, Pat Holmes, David Brady, Peter Burke, and Dermot Flanagan all togged out to ensure that the Green and Red were well represented as the stage left Mayo for Donegal. I was aware that Pat Holmes had been putting in serious mileage over recent months and it became obvious that he does not go far these days without the Lycra as he had the honour of eventually winning the overall Sprint points competition despite a late challenge from former Mayo net minder, Peter Burke. Tierney had some serious work done on the hills recently and was looking fairly confident that he would be wearing the polka dot King of the Mountain classification jersey. Unfortunately no one mentioned the fact that there are not any mountains anywhere between Westport and Bundoran and he was looking quite perplexed at the stage finish!
I have several options this weekend to attend club championship matches, but the one that tickles my fancy most is that of Ballina v Westport. The Coveys are absolutely flying, like their ‘King of the Mountains’ manager, and I would not be at all surprised to see them pull off what would be, for them, a famous win.