The Connacht senior football championship is “as hard as any province to win”, according to Galway manager Kevin Walsh..
Though Roscommon edged Mayo by a point in their semi-final, the average winning margin in this summer’s Connacht championship was 11 points, the highest of the provinces.
Former Dublin footballer Alan Brogan, citing Dublin’s 26-game unbeaten run in Leinster and Kerry’s eight Munster final wins this decade, has this week said the provincial system is no longer worth retaining.
But Galway boss, Walsh, has a different viewpoint: “You can look out there and there is stuff being said about different provinces, but Connacht is as hard as any province to win. This year, three Division 1 sides were from Connacht and any one of them can beat the other. It wouldn’t have been a major surprise [that Roscommon beat Mayo]. We knew that we’d either be playing the number one ranked team in the country, at the time, or the side that beat the number one team in the country. The latter materialised. Go back five, six years ago, and Mayo were the only Division 1 side in the province for a spell. That has changed and it makes the province very, very competitive. It means that every time you play one of those games, you can learn something from it.”
Roscommon’s semi-final win was their first championship success over Mayo, in the latter’s backyard, in 33 years. Now, they’re bidding to become the first Roscommon team since 2001 to defeat Mayo and Galway in the one summer.
Walsh observed that Anthony Cunningham has the Rossies playing “physical, aggressive”, and “on the edge”. The former Galway hurling boss is chasing history this weekend as no other senior inter-county manager has masterminded provincial titles in both codes, and in different provinces.
“I’d know Anthony going back a long time. I know how committed a person he is. For any man that’s been taking hurling and football teams to where he’s taken them, he obviously knows sport inside out. They work for him. That’s a nice thing to have when you have players who are working for the manager. I hugely respect what he does. I wouldn’t know enough about hurling [to manage in the game]. We all have different interests in different sports. I still coach a lot of basketball. If you are open-minded, you will learn from other sports and that’s obviously what Anthony is doing.”
Now into his fifth year as Galway boss, Walsh sees it as imperative that he continues to infuse his panel with new blood, particularly in a season where injuries have been such a problem. John Daly, Antaine Ó Laoi, and Robert Finnerty made their championship debuts against London, with Pádraic Cunningham starting his first championship game for Galway in that fixture. Club footballer of the year Kieran Molloy was handed a first championship start against Sligo last time out, while there was a championship debut for fellow Corofin man Martin Farragher.