This Galway football team has yet to fulfil its potential, according to half-back Gary O’Donnell.
Kevin Walsh’s side will this Sunday chase a third Connacht SFC title in four years and, in the process, bid to become the first Galway team since 2003 to successfully defend the JJ Nestor Cup.
Factor in last year’s Division 1 league final and All-Ireland semi-final appearances, bridging gaps of 12 and 17 years respectively — the Tribesmen have pushed themselves up the pecking order during Kevin Walsh’s five years at the helm.
That as it may be, O’Donnell, who is one of the elder statesmen in the squad having made his debut back in 2009, is adamant there is far more in this side.
“We haven’t fulfilled our potential, no point saying otherwise,” said O’Donnell.
“It was probably highlighted a few years back that we needed to be in Division 1. Any year we didn’t get up, it was kind of thrown back at us, which was probably fair enough. The longer it went on, the more it was dragging us down, but since we’ve won Division 2, we’ve ticked a lot of boxes along the way. We’ve had Croke Park wins, we beat Kerry last year, the first time in a long time, and reached an All-Ireland semi-final too.
“Things are heading in the right direction, but we don’t want that to be the peak of our powers by any means.
“We’ve plenty more boxes to tick. We’d be our own harshest critics. We know the potential that we have, the players we have, and the drive that a lot of our lads would have. It’s probably not as evident to people from the outside.
The last time Galway and Roscommon met in a Connacht decider at Pearse Stadium, it was the visitors who scored a surprise yet emphatic victory. Two years on from that 2-15 to 0-12 defeat, O’Donnell, who hails from the hurling heartland of Gort, but plays his club football with Tuam, is not sure if complacency was a factor.
“Thinking back to it, and what way we were going into the game, we were very, very confident as we were playing quite well. I know conditions were difficult in Pearse Stadium, with the wind and rain, but that was the case for both teams. They were in our faces on the day. They were much the better side.”
Touching on those familiar Salthill elements, which greatly hindered the recent Galway-Wexford hurling fixture at Pearse Stadium, O’Donnell gives the impression that he prefers playing at Galway football’s spiritual home, Tuam Stadium.
“I think a lot of the lads like Pearse Stadium the venue. The weather is a different kettle of fish.
“Tuam Stadium is not your typical county ground in terms of facilities and so on, maybe that’s the difficulty for other teams coming there. There’s a huge amount of tradition to Tuam Stadium too with it being located in North Galway and the traditional home of Galway football so, in years to come, hopefully, that’ll be developed and we’ll be getting games back there as well.”