It’s definitely time to close the book on last Saturday night’s defeat to Kerry and look ahead instead to our next match in this year’s League campaign.
In Round 3 this coming Sunday we face newly-promoted Galway at Pearse Stadium, where throw-in is 2pm and where the LGFA match between the same two counties acts as the curtain-raiser at 12pm. In the lads’ match the ref is Anthony Nolan from Wicklow whom we encountered most recently in the All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Roscommon last year.
We’ve been seeing a bit of Galway of late too. Championship last summer, an FBD clash for the first time in a good while as well last month but we haven’t met in the League since the neighbours were last in the top tier. That was back in 2011, James Horan’s first year as manager, and we crushed them by 2-14 to 0-12 in Tuam that February on a day when senior debutant Jason Doherty banged in two goals.
Galway got relegated that year and were slumming it in Division Two until last spring when a determined push saw them at last gain promotion back to the top tier. They finished top of the Division Two table in 2017 on eleven points, having won five, drawn one and lost one of the seven matches they played.
They started out with a draw at Pearse Stadium against Cork and then a week later had six points to spare over Fermanagh at Brewster Park. They beat neighbours Clare by eight points in the next round, at Salthill, but after that they suffered their only loss, going under by a point to Meath in Navan.
They were back on form in Round 5, though, banging five goals past Derry as they waltzed to a nine-point win over the Oakleafers at Tuam. An eight-point win over Down in Newry followed and then a one-point victory over Kildare at Pearse Stadium confirmed their table-topping finish and promotion back to Division One.
I saw them in action at Croke Park in April where they faced Kildare in the Division Two final, which was the undercard to the Dublin/Kerry Division One final that day. That curtain-raiser was a contest devoid of any real excitement and it only came to life in the closing minutes. Galway’s victory in it, by 0-18 to 0-16, was, though, significant as it marked their first win at Croke Park since Nebuchadnezzar was a nipper.
I didn’t have long to wait to long to view Galway up close again last year, as we came head-to-head with them at Pearse Stadium in the Connacht semi-final in June. Keith Higgins tickled Comer’s rocks and got a red card for his trouble, they pretty much collapsed in a heap in the final quarter but we squandered a hatful of chances to get the scores we needed to win the game, instead slumping to what was from our perspective a hugely dispiriting one-point loss.
But Galway failed to build on this unexpected win and instead, at the same venue four weeks later, were thumped by Roscommon in the Connacht final. That defeat saw them paired with Donegal in Round 4 of the qualifiers where, to their credit, Kevin Walsh’s team righted themselves smartly and cut the Hillsmen to bits, knocking four goals past them at Markievicz Park and winning by fifteen points on the same day we had that heart-stopping extra-time win over Cork in Limerick.
That win booked them a place, for the second year running, in the All-Ireland Series. On what was an historic day for the West at Croke Park – with Galway, Roscommon and ourselves in All-Ireland quarter-final action on the same day – the Tribesmen, however, flopped once more. Kerry barely had to stir themselves in anger at all that afternoon as they ambled to a 1-18 to 0-13 win.
I have to say that performance stirred within me a small bit of disdain for the neighbours. The only rational explanation I could come to about how they had got the better of us – for the second year running in Connacht – was because the bloody fools had targeted our June encounter as the one in which to peak for the year. How else could one explain their subsequent no-show in the Connacht final and their complete collapse against Kerry?
That may have been completely wrong – and it most likely was, as it failed to factor in their demolition of Donegal – but why Galway, a team sprinkled with so much natural talent, could simply fail to perform at all when the going got tough last summer remains a bit of a mystery.
All the more so when they came out swinging once again against us in the FBD League last month. Loads of handbags, plenty of snarling confrontations, lads being wrestled to the ground, all manner of pulling and dragging like a bunch of rabid Kerry lads (joke! joke!) and all to prove a point in a pre-season kick-about. Slightly odd, you’d have to think.
That said, Galway seem to have their heads screwed on back in Division One of the League. They began this year’s League campaign in the best possible fashion, beating Tyrone in an ill-tempered match (when is a League match involving the Red Hands anything else?) at Tuam by four points at the end of January and then they followed this up with a one-point win over Donegal in Letterkenny last weekend.
Two wins over Ulster opposition isn’t to be sniffed at for anyone at this time of year, still less for a team adapting to life back in the top tier after a too-long absence. In footballing terms, Galway are starting to build a fairly decent case to support the proposition that they’re back.
And now, of course, they’d like nothing better than to ram this point home further by beating us next Sunday. A win for them would all but guarantee top tier survival after having played only three rounds of matches while giving us mounting worries regarding the same topic.
But the League is never really wholly about the League at all. Sunday’s clash comes at a time when both of us are thinking ever more about our pivotal Connacht quarter-final clash at Castlebar in May, a match neither of us will want to come out the wrong side of.
The bookies view Sunday’s match, to all intents and purposes, as a toss-up – Paddy Power prices us at 10/11 to prevail in it. But what say you? Will we get what is now an overdue win over the Tribesmen in this one? Let’s finish with a vote on that very topic.
How will we go against Galway?
- Win (47%, 182 Votes)
- Lose (39%, 151 Votes)
- Draw (15%, 58 Votes)
Total Voters: 391