We take a look at the potential prospects of the Galway hurlers and footballers before they begin their championship fixtures campaigns. Both had successful league campaigns as both the Galway hurlers and footballers ended up with national league honours.
Can Galway hurlers end their drought?
It has been a long wait for the Galway hurlers in the pursuit of Liam McCarthy. 1988 was the last time a Galway player walked up the steps of the Hogan stand to lift the famous trophy. There is a sense though throughout the hurling community that this could be the year that Galway finally end that wait.
The performance in the league final has many within and outside the county speculating on the chances of the Tribesmen. The manner in which they took part the All Ireland champions, Tipperary, has seen Galway become favourites in the betting markets. They have all the physical attributes you want in an All-Ireland contender, pace, power, strength and also very good under a high ball. Not only that, but they also look like the best physically conditioned team in the country. Lukasz Kirszenstein has joined the backroom staff as strength and conditioning coach having previously worked with Tipperary last season and is seemingly once again working his magic on the Galway hurlers.
Canning, Whelan, Mannion, Burke, Flynn, to name a few, all would get on any team in the country and it is hard to see them not overcoming a Dublin side who are in disarray after relegation from 1A and with players dropping off the panel. However there always is a question with Galway and their mentality. In the Leinster final last year, they were the better side but came out without victory and failure to beat Wexford meant another season in 1B. This is what makes the Dublin game a tricky fixture but if they perform to the level they are capable of not only will they beat Dublin but I’d expect them to win Leinster outright. Kilkenny are not the side they were and may not even overcome Wexford who if they did reach the Leinster final may find it difficult to handle Galway’s qualities. Micheál Donoghue men should have an excellent say on the destination of Liam for 2017 but the doubts that surround them will always be there unless they can reach the steps of the Hogan in September.
Footballers on the right path.
While the focus in the last few weeks may have been on the county’s hurlers, Galway football has had a very strong spring. Not only did they win the Division 2 league title and gain promotion back to football elite table, the U21 side shocked Kerry and reached the U21 decider where a strong Dublin side ultimately defeated them. They also are the defending Connaught champions beating their close rivals Mayo along the way.
If they are to retain their Connaught championship it is Mayo who they must defeat again after The Heather County’s victory last week over Sligo sets up a clash between the big two. Galway were very impressive during the league suffering only one loss throughout the campaign, a one point defeat to Meath in a game that could have gone either way. They capped off the league campaign winning the Division 2 title by defeating Kildare on a score line of 0-16 to 0-18.
Galway’s performances were mixed throughout with impressive wins over Clare and Derry, where they put 5 goals in the Derry net, and struggled against Meath and an understrength Kildare side in Pearse Stadium. However, the one positive habit they have is the habit of winning. Even when performances were not at their best, they managed to grind out results. An example being was the league final where they finished strong with two points from Michael Daly, the son of two time All-Star Val Daly, and captain of the U21 side. Daly is a player to keep an eye on in the next few years as he looked to deal with the pressure of playing in Croke Park in Galway’s first victory at HQ since the All-Ireland final in 2001.
Galway have been boosted with the returns of Michael Meehan and Sean Armstrong back to the panel, although Meehan return has been hampered by injury a trait which has followed him throughout his intercounty career. Shane Walsh, Paul Conroy, Johnny Heaney, who was superb in the league final and Garry Sice are all important players and will play key roles if Galway are to succeed in 2017.
The ambition for the county must be to at least reach the last eight of the championship and they will want to do it by retaining the Connaught title which will not be easy as Mayo will be itching to regain the provincial championship. Galway are a bit away from the big four of Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Tyrone. They will be looking to break into that bracket in the next few years with the success at underage and you would fancy them to make the last eight.