Supporting Opinion

Galway footballers are dangerous now after a mighty Connacht Final triumph

Inside Track with John McIntyre

THE Galway footballers were men on a mission in the Connacht final at Pearse Stadium on Sunday. Stung by the criticism over their lucky semi-final win over Sligo and, sick of being reminded about the team’s recent poor record against Mayo, they were drawing a line in the sand.

So too was Padraic Joyce and his backroom team. Having survived in Division One despite a horrendous injury list and reaching another provincial decider, Galway were struggling to get much public acclaim for those feats. They had become the forgotten squad in the race for Sam.

Mayo were favourites to collect the Nestor Cup in Salthill and for the greater portion of an invigorating contest, Kevin McStay’s men appeared poised to end Galway’s quest for a first Connacht three-in-a-row in 40 years. Ultimately, their lack of efficiency – nine wides to just two – contributed to the team’s failure to close the deal.

More significant, however, was Galway’s sheer will to win and a tactical masterstroke by the management in holding selected duo Shane Walsh and John Maher in reserve. Whatever about the start, the champions were determined to be going strong in the closing minutes and that’s what happened with the last three scores of the game.

Perhaps, their closing two frees were off the soft variety, but Galway had genuine grievances over David Gough’s officiating before that, not least the calling-back of quickly taken frees by Cein D’Arcy and Seán Kelly. Still, they kept going and snatched a memorable triumph with Connor Gleeson’s bomb exploding between the posts in the 75th minute.

Given the late drama, it was no surprise that Galway celebrated as though they had nearly won the All-Ireland itself. This was an emotional success with a player not usually afforded hero status being the centre of attention. Yes, supporters are inclined to look between the fingers when Gleeson takes flight up the field – he was lucky with one turnover – but what a kick to carry the day. The Dunmore player had earlier landed another priceless free to keep his team in the hunt.

It was a great occasion and rarely has a Connacht title been acclaimed with such gusto. Galway’s backs have been to the wall for most of the year, with Damien Comer, Shane Walsh, Cillian McDaid, Paul Conroy, Rob Finnerty, and Matthew Tierney all laid up with injuries at different stages. Sunday was the first time McDaid appeared on the match-day squad; while Comer had been sidelined in 2024 until introduced against Sligo.

There is little point in going through the nuts and bolts of the final. Galway were playing for themselves and Joyce, whose pride in what he had just seen was plain to see in Salthill. It has been a tough few months with all the injuries, but the show was kept on the road in preserving their league status and now achieving something no other Galway team has done in four decades.

Pictured: Galway’s John Maher is challenged by Mayo’s Eoghan McLaughlin during Sunday’s Connacht Senior Football Championship Final at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.



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