The year has to start somewhere and January may be as good a time as any to get the GAA season up and running, but this was tough going on a very wet but firm pitch, with conditions biting all round.
New Sligo manager Pat Flanagan has only had a few weeks to work with his new charges and it showed. But, over time, the former Westmeath manager will make his mark and he showed yesterday that he is willing to give everyone a chance.
One man who didn’t wait long to make a mark was former Kildare player James Kavanagh, who was outstanding on his debut for Galway.
Kavanagh has genuine links with Galway. He played with a lot of his new colleagues during his two years in St Jarlath’s College, including a Hogan Cup success in 2002, and is married locally and working as a garda in Galway for over a year.
Tuam Stadium is not unfamiliar to him having played a season of club football with Milltown but yesterday he graced the traditional home of Galway football with a display of hard work and strong running as if he was performing there all his life.
Neither he nor Galway will get too carried away with his performance but he did make a mark and the former All Star could yet play a pivotal role as Galway try to get out of Division 2 and also dent Mayo’s Connacht dominance.
“It was a day for people to show the correct attitude, you know, the weather was bad, the underfoot conditions were very soft and James has brought that attitude to the panel in the last few weeks since we’ve gone back training,” noted Galway manager Alan Mulholland.
He has appointed Paul Conroy as captain and the midfielder who skippered Mulholland’s 2007 minors to All-Ireland glory looks like he will revel in the role. His St James’ clubmate Eoin Concannon also made a big mark yesterday with 2-2 from play, while Gareth Bradshaw crowned his return from a stint in the United States with a hard-working performance.
“We have a number of injuries and we also have a number of guys who are prevented from playing with us in the colleges so we had some of the fringe players, some of the under 21 lads in there today that we hadn’t seen before and I think we had three of four guys who have never worn a Galway jersey until today. So that’s what we’re looking at in the FBD, to unearth a bit of talent and also get a bit of cohesiveness in the team bearing in mind we’re starting the league campaign on the first of February,” added Mulholland.
Flanagan has a fair bit of work to do but, as he showed in Westmeath, he is prepared to put in the hours and build slowly.
They never really got a look in yesterday with Concannon getting his first goal after 10 minutes and it was a damage limitation exercise for Sligo when they trailed by 1-2 to 0-4 at the break, having played with the wind and rain.
Adrian Marren and sub Colm McGee did most to make it a contest but Galway just had too many players performing on a higher plain and Michael Martin got their second goal 11 minutes after the restart with a great finish to the bottom corner before Concannon wrapped it up with his second goal two minutes later.
Flanagan, whose only other outing was a challenge against Sligo IT, was pleased to get a look at his new charges in a competitive environment.
“Obviously we would have preferred if the scoreline was more favourable on our behalf but it’s great for the boys to get out there, to get working ahead of the league campaign.
“It’s an opportunity for me and the selectors to have a look at the players and see what format we can use that will suit the players. This is our first time to see them in a competitive match, we played Sligo IT in a challenge game but we were missing a few players that night so this is really our first match.”
Scorers for Galway: E Concannon (2-2), M Martin (1-2, 1f), M Hehir (0-2fs), A Tierney, E Hoare, J Kavanagh, S Armstrong (0-1 each).
Scorers for Sligo: A Marren (0-2, 1f), C McGee (0-2fs), M Breheny (1f), V Frizzel (45), B O’Mahony, J Hynes (0-1 each).
GALWAY: T Healy; A Tierney, J Moore, E Murray; T Fahy, G Higgins, E Walsh; P Conroy, D O’Connell; G Bradshaw, M Martin, M Hehir; E Hoare, E Concannon, J Kavanagh.
Subs: K McGrath for Moore (ht), D O’Neill for Fahy (40), S Armstrong for Martin (45), D Cummins for Concannon (45), F Hanley for Tierney (58).
SLIGO: V Cadden; G Gilsenan, G Ryan, N Ewing; C Harrison, L Bree, R Connolly; J Quinn, M Quinn; C Griffin, M Breheny, V Frizzel; A Marren, B O’Mahony, N Murphy.
Subs: J Kelly for Ewing (29), C McGee for Marren (43), C Breheny for Frizzel (45), J Hynes for O’Mahony (55), K Sweeney for Murphy (55).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).