By Cian O’Connell for gaa.ie
Expectations have increased and standards raised so Galway manager Kevin Walsh acknowledges that the stakes will be piled seriously high against Mayo at Elverys MacHale Park on May 13.
Sprinkled with plenty of promising young footballers Galway reached the Allianz Football League Final and Walsh wants his developing team to deliver in Castlebar now.
“Yeah it’s a huge game, there’s no doubt about that,” Walsh remarked at the Connacht Championship launch on Tuesday. “We all know the length of the backdoor which is really, really long. One of the teams are going to be in there regardless of what it is.
“The fact that it’s maybe two teams from Division One, you have to be ready for either way so it’s important that whatever happens we take care of ourselves, there’s a lot of young fellas out there that’ll learn from it. I suppose the ideal route is the front door, but we’ll have to see how it goes.”
We’re playing the second best team in Ireland, but the expectation is that we’ll run them very, very close. We’ll have to deal with that.
There is some expectation Corrib-side once more. “I’m sure there is,” Walsh says. “There has to be and if you, I suppose go back to maybe three, four years ago when we were playing Mayo there wasn’t as much talk as there is now.
“There are reasons for that I suppose and performing reasonably well in Division One where we’d be hoping the likes of getting to a League Final. There is expectation there, maybe things might have been learned. Hopefully they’re growing as people.”
In 2016 and 2017 Galway defeated Mayo out west and Walsh acknowledges that the build up is slightly ‘different’ this year.
“It’s certainly a different challenge,” Walsh replies. “We’re still underdogs, there’s no doubt about that. We’re playing the second best team in Ireland, but the expectation is that we’ll run them very, very close. We’ll have to deal with that.”
Galway have become more defensively sound, conceding only one goal in eight Division One fixtures – a consequence of sheer hard graft according to Walsh.
“It was down to four years of hard work,” Walsh adds. “I’d put it down to the lads working hard. “It’s not just all about ball in hand, you have to work with footwork, you have to work with different type of steps that we do on and off the pitch that’s going on for quite a while.
The point I’m making is perception is reality and if someone who throws out some stuff that’s not a fact and without homework being done it can affect how people think. So it’s important that I put all that type of stuff away and not listen to the outside stuff, to analyse properly.
“But there are certain things that we’re hoping does improve things, and we’re hoping we see the fruit of it now.”
That is why Walsh is keen not to get too bothered about pundits questioning Galway’s counter-attacking style. “Look, at the end of the year I’ll always take stock, you’ll always hear me talking about the end of year accounts, I’ll always do them,” Walsh comments.
“You have to look and see the commitment of everyone else, where you’re going to, what’s improving, what’s not improving.
“It’s important that we as managers to isolate ourselves and not to get sucked into perceptions that are out there, maybe by some lazy work by some pundits. It’s important that I take clear stock of what the year is like, and we go from there.
“The point I’m making is perception is reality and if someone who throws out some stuff that’s not a fact and without homework being done it can affect how people think. So it’s important that I put all that type of stuff away and not listen to the outside stuff, to analyse properly.”
That is what Galway and Mayo will continue to do until the eagerly anticipated May 13 battle commences.