WITH the sun still struggling to awaken before nine o clock and the chill of midwinter lingering in our bones, it’s a challenge to get warmed up about the first round of the FBD league, but the footballers of Galway and Sligo made a decent stab on Sunday at changing the sombreness of our moods.
The quaintly name Quibabar Park on the Kilglass side of Enniscrone on the road to Sligo has little natural protection from the wild west winds blowing in across Killala Bay, but it’s a welcoming place, and the local club pulls out all the stops in terms of organisation and hospitality for their biennial hosting of this fixture.
Kevin Walsh used the tie to give a whole crop of players the chance to wear the maroon jersey and, while for a time they seem destined to perish on the sword of a determined Sligo side, Galway came good in the end with a very spirited finish.
There was a ‘return to the fold’ on Sunday for the likes of Johnny Duane, Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Sean Armstrong whose collective resumption of county action is a welcome move – overall the fitness levels of both sides indicated that the excesses of the Christmas season had been largely avoided.
Wind is an intrinsic part of the Enniscrone landscape but at least on Sunday the rain stayed away and the biting cold of two years ago was absent – Galway battled against the elements in the first half, and when they went in at the interval only 6-4 down, they looked odds-on for a comfortable victory.
Niall Carew’s Sligo though had other ideas and turned in a most resilient third quarter when, for the most part, they outmatched Galway in terms of the intensity of their play, still leading by two points (0-9 to 0-7) with just 13 minutes remaining on the clock.
If anything, the balance of the match at that stage looked to have swung the way of Sligo but in fairness to Galway they turned in a most spirited final 12 minute to swing the match their way with a series of points from David Wynne, Barry McHugh (3) and Eddie Hoare.
Mountbellew’s McHugh, who kicked seven points over the 70 minutes (4 frees and three from play), was one of the more impressive ‘new players’ on view, while another duo – goalkeeper Rory Lavelle and midfielder Michael Day – also made their own piece of history on Sunday.
Both players hail from the island of Inishbofin and being the first duo from the island to line out for Galway at senior level – into the bargain, both contributed solidly to the victory.
Galway expended a lot of first half energy in trying to retain possession and create chances close to goal – given the intensity of the wind, anything outside the 30-yard range was practically in the unscoreable category for the Tribesmen’s forward line.
Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune