herald

Friday 21 September 2018

Tribe boss Walsh must be wary of a Dub whammy

Consider Derry, fresh
Consider Derry, fresh

It's only a fortnight since Curveball was singing the praises of Kevin Walsh's (right) high-flying Galway, a county that has abandoned its 'Fancy Dan' past for a new trait of 'winning ugly'.

What has happened since then? They've won again, comprehensively, at home to renowned party-poopers Monaghan.

Thus, in their first year back in Division 1 since 2011, they've reached the final with two games to spare.

"I don't think there was too many that said we would be unbeaten at this stage, including ourselves," admitted their manager, fresh from overseeing Sunday's 0-17 to 1-10 win.

This is all going incredibly well for Walsh. Too well?

This is where the season turns tricky and potentially troublesome for a man who knows what it takes to win an All-Ireland after years of grafting (in 1998) and then to win it again (in 2001).

Wonders

Galway host the Dubs in Pearse Stadium this Sunday. Even if they lose here - and then falter again, to a relegation-haunted Kildare - they will be Croker-bound for the Division 1 final.

The Tribesmen may have claimed the Division 2 title at Kildare's expense last April - their first senior football victory in Headquarters since the 2001 All-Ireland final - but this is a totally unexplored world for Walsh's spring wonders.

Galway last qualified for a top-flight decider in 2006. They last won the title in 1981. Meanwhile, this is anything but new terrain for the Dubs.

Barring an improbable equation of results that not even the late Stephen Hawking could explain (Monaghan beat Donegal this weekend while Dublin lose in Galway and then at home to Monaghan) Jim Gavin will be on league final patrol for the sixth consecutive year on April 1.

Many of you will view that as an April Fool's errand for Galway.

For new kids on the Division 1 block, there is always the danger of rising too high, too fast, increasing the possibility of a precipitous tumble.

This is doubly so for Galway as two of your next three fixtures (almost certainly) will be against Dublin, who specialise in planting doubt in the minds of potential summer rivals.

There are several recent examples to give Galway pause for thought.

Consider Derry, fresh from Division 2, who reached the 2014 top-flight decider - there to be humiliated by Dublin, 3-19 to 1-10. Two months later, they crashed out of the qualifiers at home to Longford.

How about Cork, albeit a league heavyweight when they reached the 2015 final. But they were crushed by the Dubs (again) 1-21 to 2-7 ... and their summer, along with Brian Cuthbert's reign, ended in an eight-point thrashing from Kildare.

The nearest case study for Galway is that of Roscommon in 2016: after losing their first match back in Division 1, they blazed a trail with four straight wins and this was enough to ensure a semi-final place.

But then their defensive naivety was exposed by Kerry; cue a 3-15 to 0-14 defeat. Whereupon the Rossies lost their way, culminating in two bad beatings to Galway (Connacht final replay) and Clare, and then a managerial schism.

Thus, the next fortnight could be critical for Galway - not in the sense that winning the league is now a top priority, but rather they must guard against psychological damage at precisely the wrong time of year.

Opportunity

Remember, Galway face Mayo in Castlebar on May 13. This Connacht quarter-final is infinitely more important than a Division 1 final ... not just for local bragging rights or the provincial title opportunity that might open up, but because the alternative is too grim to even contemplate.

Whoever loses must survive the GAA equivalent of Russian roulette - four qualifier rounds merely to reach the Super 8s, where another three-match marathon awaits.

Such a gruelling schedule could prove physically and/or mentally beyond a team of Mayo's sky-high mileage. We'll hazard a guess that it wouldn't be a barrel of laughs for Galway either.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News