Supporting Opinion

Galway’s flagship GAA teams still leave fans uncertain of true worth

Inside Track with John McIntyre

Padraic Joyce and his backroom must have been through hell and back during Saturday’s Connacht senior football semi-final at Markievicz Park. Looking dead and buried against a fired-up Sligo, Galway pulled off an unlikely resurrection to set up a provincial showdown with Mayo.

It was also edge-of-the-seat stuff for the Galway fans in the crowd of about 4,500 as Sligo stretched four points clear down the home stretch and appeared on the brink of qualifying for a second consecutive Connacht Final for the first time. The Tribesmen were in dire straits and looking for a miracle.

Against the odds, Galway pulled it out of the fire, but wouldn’t have done so only for the introduction of Damien Comer early in the second-half. The Annaghdown ace hadn’t been involved all season due to injury but what an instant impact he made, rifling over two points, and creating Rob Finnerty’s winning stoppage-time goal through sheer force of will.

We had been a little dismissive of Sligo’s chances last week but had expected more from Galway despite their injury woes. Shane Walsh was back in the starting side and the Tribesmen’s camp should have been in a positive mood after routing London in Ruislip but, unfortunately, that proved a misleading guide to Galway’s form given the poverty of the opposition.

They had several chances to find the net in the opening-half but butchered them all. All of that only served to embolden the hosts who played with a swagger which had some key Galway players toiling. The only time Sligo fell behind was when the impressive Finnerty found the net in the 71st minute. It was a cruel outcome for them.

Joyce didn’t hang about in trying to salvage the situation. Reputations didn’t save Walsh, John Daly, or Paul Conroy from being called ashore, but only for battering-ram Comer and the economic Finnerty, Galway’s bid for a first Connacht title treble in 40 years would have been ground to dust.

The ironic thing is that this close shave in Sligo could be a blessing in disguise for Galway if Joyce can knit his resources together for the Connacht Final. Sure, Mayo gained their revenge on Roscommon at Hyde Park the following day, but their hosts spurned a series of chances and with a better conversion rate could have sneaked the victory.

Every game is different, and you’d expect that Galway – if they really are serious championship contenders – will leave their Sligo form significantly behind in Salthill on Sunday week. The reality is these age-old rivals both have a lot to prove, and you can’t be certain how their respective seasons will evolve from here.

Pictured: Galway team manager Henry Shefflin and coach Eamon O’Shea are animated on the sideline during Sunday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Championship encounter against Carlow at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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