By Daragh Small
Galway captain Damien Comer believes that watching the Liam MacCarthy Cup return west for the first time since 1988 lit a fire under the footballers this year.
Hopes are rising in Galway at the prospect of a double for the first time in their history, having last come close in 2001 when they won the football final against Meath, but lost the hurling decider against Tipperary.
Galway play their second game of the Super 8s on Sunday, travelling to St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge for a massive clash with Kildare. Kevin Walsh’s side are in pole position for one of the semi-final spots in Group 1 after they secured a huge 1-13 to 1-10 victory over Kerry at Croke Park in Round 1.
Comer, the 24-year-old Annaghdown full-forward scored a point against Kerry and says that in his first year of captaincy, winning an All-Ireland is the dream.
“Seeing the hurlers win the All-Ireland, the scenes around the place, you think: ‘I would love to bring them back.’ You remember the scenes of 1998 and 2001, as well, when Galway football was at its best,” said Comer.
“As captain, and all of the lads in the setup as well, Kevin Walsh and the backroom team, we are trying to bring Galway football back to where it was. Seeing the hurlers, you just want to drive on and try win something.
"It’s credit to Kevin and his team the work they have put in to enable us to perform at this level. We have good quality players that have shown what they are able to do. Paddy Tally has brought in extra bits, but the main credit has to go to Kevin and his team.
They have been working on this for the last number of years and Paddy has come in and added his own twist.”
Comer has had a big 2018, captaining NUIG to a Sigerson Cup final, in which they lost out to UCD in the decider. He followed up by leading Galway to a NFL Division 1 final, losing out to Dublin.
He then starred late on to help Galway to a second Connacht title in three years against Roscommon last month. He has been the main target man for his county in recent seasons, but enlisted the help of Galway strength-and-conditioning coach Keith Carr to give him an extra edge this year.
“I have tried to come away from the gym aspect a bit and become more mobile around the pitch,” said Comer.
“Last year, I had a few injuries and wasn’t able to train, so I spent a bit more time in the gym. I got a bit too bulky and, when I got to Croker against Kerry, I didn’t feel as fit, or even some of the games in the Connacht championship, I wasn’t moving as freely as I would have liked. Thankfully, in the league, I felt it changed a bit this year.
“I focused on different programmes, extra cardio-vascular activities. I had dropped a few kilogrammes as well. You are not the extra few pounds in the matches then. You definitely notice it when you are not carrying the unnecessary weight.”