Inside Track with John McIntyre
Within hours of Galway footballers making the championship exit to Mayo at the Limerick Gaelic Grounds on Saturday evening, it appeared that Kevin Walsh was a dead manager walking – at least, on social media. The speculation had already begun about who would be his successor – some names being bandied about were those of Kevin O’Brien, Padraic Joyce, John Divilly and Stephen Rochford – accompanied by more condemnation of Walsh and his management team.
You’d wonder why anybody would bother getting involved at inter-county level these days such is the level of vitriolic and anonymous criticism of managers and selectors when things go wrong. Walsh has been in the eye of the storm for most of the year, especially over the style of football Galway were playing.
The county has always been associated with fluid and attractive football, with attack often the best form of defence, but that approach has almost become redundant in the modern era. Galway had been left behind and Walsh knew it when he took over from Alan Mulholland five-years ago.
In essence, Galway had become too open at the back, suffering unthinkable qualifier defeats to the likes of Westmeath, Antrim and Wexford. Walsh knew things had to be tightened up and he gradually made the team harder to beat and more competitive. Of course, there were setbacks along the way – notably, the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Tipperary in July of 2016 – but, in an overall context, the men in maroon were on the rise.
Two Connacht titles, a return to Division One in the league, and reaching the All-Ireland semi-final in 2018 left Galway primed for further progress this year, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Injuries to some key players disrupted team selection and weakened its overall quality. For all that, the Tribesmen comfortably retained their top flight league status.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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