Galway broaden base without mainstay Comer

BURSTING FOR ACTION: Galway’s Damien Comer won’t be in action until mid-June after sustaining an ankle injury in a charity soccer game on St Stephen’s Day, but he says ‘we’ve found a few young lads that have come in and grabbed their opportunity’. Picture: Harry Murphy.

A very safe presumption to make would be that Damien Comer has much fonder memories of his last trip to Ruislip than Galway manager Kevin Walsh.

The latter will this weekend take his Galway team to London for their opening game of the Connacht championship.

Walsh hasn’t stood on the sideline in Ruislip since that infamous afternoon in 2013, when, as Sligo manager, the visitors were turned over by the hosts in a shock that had Eamonn O’Hara calling for Walsh’s resignation.

A year later, it was Galway who were entertained by London in a Connacht quarter-final which went along expected lines. With 18 minutes remaining and the result long sewn up, 20-year-old Comer replaced Michael Lundy for what was his first championship appearance for the Tribesmen.

“It was good, but different. A different sort of a trip to your typical match-day. It’s all about going out there and getting the job done because there’s plenty of distractions that you can’t allow yourself get sucked into,” recalls Comer of their 3-17 to 0-7 quarter-final win back in 2014.

We won’t see the Galway captain in action this weekend, an ankle injury sustained during a charity soccer game on Stephen’s Day having sidelined him for the entire league. Mid-June, at the earliest, is his intended return date.

Such is the mainstay status he commands within this Galway set-up, it’ll be most unfamiliar to see the county take to the field for a championship game without the well-built Annaghdown man at full-forward.

Indeed, since making his debut five years ago, Galway have played 25 championship games. Comer started 23 of them, coming off the bench in the other two. That’s how central he has become to the Galway operation.

His absence tomorrow, and that of a few more, has enabled Walsh to hand out first championship starts to John Daly, Antaine Ó Laoi, and Padraic Cunningham.

“Injuries are never good, but in this case, it helped us develop our squad and involve a few players [during the league],” reasoned Comer.

We’ve found a few young lads that have come in and grabbed their opportunity. They’ve really put their hand up. It’s great to see.

"At the start of the year, people would have tipped us for relegation given the injuries we had, but it’s great that the lads had such bottle that they could fit in nicely.

“Some of the lads that made their debuts during the league, it felt like they were playing for years in the way they fitted into the system. The Corofin lads coming back in only adds to the competition of the squad.”

Galway reached a first All-Ireland semi-final in 17 years last August, with Comer stressing the importance of getting back to that stage of the championship on a consistent basis.

“In the first half against Dublin last year, if we had taken our opportunities, we would have been well in there.

"But it’s how we can build on it, how we can progress it. We’ve a new championship coming, it’s important that we can develop from there and tighten up a few things.

“Back-to-back Connacht titles hasn’t been done by a Galway team in a while [2003 was the last occasion]. That would be nice.”

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