It’s already Wednesday evening and the time’s ticking down quickly towards our first competitive inter-county match since early March. It all still has an air of unreality about it – not least in light of the fact that today’s daily Covid numbers were the highest since the pandemic hit – but, as the saying goes, it is what it is.
Galway’s team announcement last night – details here – had an unreal kind of feel to it too. Nine changes from the Tribesmen’s most recent League outing, against Meath back in March, and much being made about the impact that the virus has had on player availability.
It’s still a strong enough team, however, and with Damien Comer on media duties only last week saying that the long hiatus since March has enabled him to get back to full fitness, I’d say there’s a strong possibility he’ll start, even though he’s not named in the first fifteen.
While Galway don’t need to win this game in the way we patently do, they won’t be going out of their way to lose it either. Not with the possibility of the two counties clashing again – this time in a Connacht decider – a month from now. Mind you, the other teams within the province, notably champions Roscommon, will have something to say about such a possible rematch.
Padraic Joyce will definitely be looking to get one over James Horan, aiming to continue the head-to-head hegemony between the teams that the oft-maligned Kevin Walsh achieved, following a run of several years when we got used to beating Galway for fun.
Up until that shock Connacht semi-final defeat to them in 2016, the most recent time Galway had beaten us in the province was way back in 2008. Championship was the only time we met them in those days too, as they’d been relegated from Division One in 2011 and weren’t showing any great signs of getting back to the top tier.
But that 2016 result changed everything. Galway got promoted the following spring, then beat us in Connacht again that summer, went on to beat us in both League and Championship in 2018 and in the League in 2019.
We didn’t get to meet them in Connacht last summer, as we tripped up against Roscommon in the semi-final. We finally ended that five-match losing streak to them last summer, though, when we came out on top in the Round 4 qualifier meeting down in Limerick, dispatching them from the Championship and propelling ourselves into the Super 8s.
That win should, you might have thought, give us confidence going into Sunday. Since the start of this year, though, Galway have enjoyed a great spell under new manager Padraic Joyce. Top of the table after five rounds, Joyce’s Galway already had one foot in the League final before the Coronavirus struck.
Defending NFL champions we may have been but we had a spring to forget. A jammy draw against Donegal and a hard-fought win against a rather limited Meath provided the only tangible reward for us from five League outings.
An utterly predictable loss to Dublin (albeit in a game that went away from us following the harsh early dismissal of Jordan Flynn), a bad hiding away to Monaghan and a narrow game-of-two-halves defeat to Kerry meant that when the virus struck in March we were second from bottom and staring down the barrel, with relegation a real and very likely danger.
We’ve been here before, of course, many times, in fact, in recent years. Indeed, Sunday’s match bears a marked similarity to our Round 6 trip to Hyde Park in 2016 to face Kevin McStay’s high-flying Rossies, where a win for the home side would have sent us down that afternoon. We won that mud-splattered contest in fine style, however, and then beat Down in the final round to avoid demotion.
Until we see what kind of team we’re putting out for Sunday – and see, as well, exactly what team Galway choose to field on the day – it’s very hard to see how this one will go. Nothing for it, then, but to finish up by chucking out a poll on it, to test the waters on Sunday’s contest.
How will we do against Galway on Sunday?
- Win (67%, 403 Votes)
- Lose (27%, 163 Votes)
- Draw (6%, 36 Votes)
Total Voters: 602