Three reasons why Galway are Connacht champions

Wily Kevin Walsh can rightly take the plaudits for this win, writes Ray Silke.

Three reasons why Galway are Connacht champions

1 - Defensive solidity

Kevin Walsh has worked extensively on getting his defensive shield in place and fit for purpose all season long.

When the opposition are on the attack one of the wing-forwards, Gary Sice or the hard grafting Johnny Heaney, will drop into wing-back and either Gareth Bradshaw or Gary O’ Donnell will fill the pocket behind centre-back Liam Silke.

With that move, Galway create in effect, two centre-backs and the middle is closed off. Mayo did not score a goal in the semi-final last month and Roscommon did not look like getting one yesterday either.

Silke is only 21, however he is a top class man-marker and reads the game well.

His job is to track the centre-forward and link the ball on the way out.

Walsh also took a gamble this year on rookie full-back Declan Kyne who at 26 got his first championship start in the win over Mayo. Kyne has been very impressive in both games this season and you can see him growing in confidence.

He is a strong man and very good in close contact. The defensive strategies further out means that he is never in danger of being left in one-on-one situations.

2 - Midfield dominance

Who better to improve Paul Conroy and Tom Flynn’s game in the middle of the park than Kevin Walsh, a man with three All-Stars at midfield himself.

And the ongoing coaching with the two lads on footwork, positional play and correct use of possession has really brought about a distinct improvement in their game.

Conroy was the player of the month for June and he was immense yesterday again. He has assumed a real leadership role in the team and is brimming with confidence. I taught with Paul all year in the Jes secondary school in Galway city and he worked incredibly hard on his own programme of strength and conditioning for the past nine months. It has paid off in spades. He is literally a different man than he was in last year’s championship.

Being in absolutely peak physical condition and flying fit is vital for any player going into the championship as it gives him confidence and belief.

Conroy has plenty of both now on the back of a few storming games and he will be looking forward to the last eight with oceans of self-belief.

Flynn won two All-Ireland U-21 medals in 2011 and 2013 at midfield, however it has taken him time to really find his feet in the senior grade.

At 6 foot and five inches he is a great outlet for goalkeeper Bernard Power if he is forced to go long.

Conroy and Flynn destroyed their opponents around the middle yesterday and their display made sure that the Galway forwards got loads of quality ball to rip the Roscommon full-back line to shreds.

3 - A target man at full-forward in Damien Comer

For a number of years Galway had no real go-to-man at full-forward.

However, Annaghdown’s Damien Comer has started to come of age in the role.

A former student at St. Jarlath’s College and NUIG, Comer is a very powerful man and he buckled the Roscommon full-back line all through this one-sided contest.

Surprisingly Roscommon did not play defensively at all and they left Seán Mullooly painfully exposed against a bigger, better and stronger player.

It was tactical madness by the Rossies and they paid a heavy price for such folly as Comer made hay all day scoring 0-3 from play while he linked up really well with two-goal hero Danny Cummins.

Roscommon were plugging major leaks at the back all day long and both Mullooly and David Keenan collected deserved black cards.

Ironically Comer was controversially carded himself when he was deemed to have pulled a defender down on top of himself. That was a first for me.

It will be interesting to see how the improving Galway forwards will fare out in the expanses of Croke Park in two weeks time, and how their opposition will set up to nullify Comer.

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