GALWAY manager Kevin Walsh is in jovial form as he briefly chats about a 20-year reunion held in the Galmont Hotel recently to celebrate the county’s football breakthrough in 1998.
“It was great. I was expecting to see a few fat bellies and a few bald heads but I was disappointed on both fronts,” he joked, of the condition of his All-Ireland winning former team-mates two decades on.
An unbeaten run in the League that culminated in a spirited defeat at the hands of Dublin in the final, means there’s a buzz back in Galway football that probably hasn’t been seen since those glory days. It was May Day, 12 days’ out from Sunday’s season defining provincial quarter-final clash with perennial All-Ireland contenders, Mayo, and Walsh acknowledged maroon hopes are rising again.
“There’s expectation there where there wasn’t two or three years ago,” said Walsh, holding court at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Bekan.
“Expectation brings the buzz and then you’ve got the banter between supporters and that’ll go on. Maybe when people really don’t believe they’re going to win they go missing so there is no banter.”
Two seasons ago Galway supporters went to Castlebar more in hope than expectation. But in 2016 when Galway overcame Mayo, holders of five-in-a-row of Connacht titles, the on-field celebrations in Castlebar that followed were perhaps OTT, understandably so, as fans released frustration that had pent-up over years of losing and underperforming.
This time round it’s different: Galway expects. So how do you manage the build-up?
“Same way,” he said. “We have to just isolate ourselves from what’s outside, reading papers and listening to too much, it is important they don’t. Obviously, expectation is rising. It’s a sign that we’re probably doing something right over the last while so that’s a good sign, but it does bring its own little pressures. Having said that if you’ve your work done and you’re clear in your role and your process and you bring your ‘A’ game to the table, you’ll give yourself a chance.”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.