Up until yesterday afternoon, I’d thought there was a real chance that I’d be missing the second successive Mayo/Roscommon Connacht final of this decade (I have told you I’ll be away then, haven’t I?). Instead, however, it’s now starting to look very much like I’m going to be passing up on a Pearse Stadium provincial decider.
Oh well, I’ll just have to make do with the Turkish coast instead. It may not be Salthill but at least the weather should be a bit more dependable over there.
Aside from the game itself (assuming we keep our part of the bargain, which I think we will, and Galway do the business over Sligo, which I also think they will) I won’t exactly be crying bucketloads over missing a match at the Salthill venue. What with the 80% terracing, the godawful location and the fact that no traffic management ever seems to be put in place for the event (with the city seemingly too caught up in its own arty-farty dominated summer) it’s got to be the worst possible place for a Connacht decider. I know we beat ourselves up over McHale Park but I’d have it any day ahead of that kip.
But Pearse Stadium it’s likely to be. The Yeatsmen should give Galway a game (well, more of a game than Roscommon did yesterday) but if the Rossies weren’t able to make any impression on events at Hyde Park I somehow doubt that Sligo will trouble the Tribesmen too much in poxy old Pearse Stadium. Likewise, I don’t expect us – our misadventures in Ruislip twelve months ago notwithstanding – to have too much trouble disposing of whomever emerges from the Leitrim/London quarter-final.
After the final whistle sounded at Hyde Park yesterday, you could almost hear the inevitable questions wondering about how good Galway really are. That’s not one that can be easily answered – not least given how desperately poor Roscommon were – and I think that it’ll be a case of us having to find out for ourselves on the field of play come mid-July.
Spillane was bullshitting after yesterday’s game about how great it was to see the lovely catch and kick football Galway were playing but any fool could tell him that those tactics won’t get them too much change out of any team that goes about their business in a serious way. Paul Conroy, who bagged an impressive 1-4 from play yesterday, won’t, for example, be afforded the same freedom inside by Ger Cafferkey and it’ll be interesting to see how Galway’s forward unit (including their high profile impact subs) are able to cope in the kind of suffocating company our backline now tends to provide.
Galway were utterly dominant at midfield yesterday but you’d have to think that any centrefield battle in which Joe Bergin emerges as the standout performer isn’t one that’ll go into the annals as any kind of classic. If we have Aidan O’Shea back and pumping properly with Jason Gibbons or whoever alongside him, you’d have to think we’ll more than hold our own there. Without Aido, though, we’re not the same force around the middle and it would be truly galling to see (well, I won’t see it but you know what I mean) Bergin dominating these exchanges like he did on that disastrous day for us in Salthill back in 2007.
The Galway backs looked alright yesterday – in particular the wing men Gareth Bradshaw and Gary O’Donnell as well as debutant corner-back Kieran McGrath – but the sector as a whole is obviously unproven. We’ve plenty of experience (some would say that much of it is of the wrong kind but there you go) in the forward line at this stage and you’d have to think that lads who’ve now had a few recent appearances at Croke Park against the top teams should have what it takes to shine in the kind of company that the Tribesmen are likely to provide.
So, impressive and all as Alan Mulholland’s Galway were yesterday, we should still have our eyes firmly fixed on a second successive Connacht title if and when we get to meet the Herrin Chokers in the decider in Salthill the month after next. As they always do, Galway will, if it comes to it, no doubt relish the opportunity to put us back in our box but you can also be sure the feeling will be mutual. I feel kinda sorry I’ll be missing such a possible Connacht final now but, then again, it’s also likely to mean I’ll be missing a trip to Pearse Stadium and, sure, by the time I get home we will, hopefully, have booked a return date to HQ for the August Bank Holiday weekend.