Galway missing the fear factor, admits frustrated Barry Cullinane

Former Galway midfielder Barry Cullinane sums up the changed relationship between the Tribesmen and rivals Mayo in one sentence.
Galway missing the fear factor, admits frustrated Barry Cullinane

“Unfortunately they have no fear of us now.”

Eight words to mark each year since Galway last defeated Mayo in Championship football. Cullinane was centrefield alongside Niall Coleman in that win and he pauses for a few seconds when asked to explain how the gulf between the two has grown.

“It is hard to say exactly. When I came into the senior set-up initially we had been beating Mayo regularly at minor and U21 level and we expected to beat them.

"We also had the likes of Pádraig Joyce, Michael Donnellan, Derek Savage and Michael Meehan to guide the way. They were hugely experienced and talented men and we took out lead from them. Unfortunately we did not build on those successes.”

The U21 selector continued: “Young players in Galway now don’t have the genuine GAA superstars we had to look up too when we were in our formative years.

“The 1998 and 2001 teams were still fresh in our memories and playing for Galway was absolutely massive. Galway were always in Division One for the league and playing the likes of Dublin and Kerry regularly in the league was a carrot too.”

“Some of the club players in the county now who could possibly make a contribution don’t always commit to the inter-county set-up which is disappointing. But they are entitled to their own choices, but any player who could be in the squad making a contribution and isn’t, is a loss.”

Some of those players include the likes of Corofin forwards Ian Burke and Martin Farragher who both won All-Ireland Club medals and U21 medals in the past three years but have opted for the States for the past two summers.

Cullinane believes those in charge of Galway football need a strategic plan to return to county to past glories.

“The elephant in the room in Galway football is the standard of football in the secondary schools in the county. If is not good enough.

“There is only one school (St. Jarlath’s College) playing A football in Connacht and they are struggling. No county can just hope that top players will come out of the pipeline unless massive work is being put in at underage level and we are not doing enough to support the schools, both national and secondary in the county to promote football.

“No business or sport can just rely on hope for things to happen. We need a strategic plan in place in Galway to promote football in schools and link that with the clubs too. The Ja Fallon, Padraig Joyce or Michael Donnellan type player only comes around every decade or so if the work is being put in to make that happen.

“The Galway football committee and the county board need to ask themselves how can we win an All-Ireland in 2026? And then they must put a plan in place to try and make that happen.

"The haphazard approach we have had will not work anymore. We need to link what we have done well in the past, with the present approach, and improve on it if Galway football is to get back to being real force.”

As regards tomorrow evening’s game in Castlebar and the outcome - Cullinane is pragmatic.

“Since last year’s game in Pearse Stadium, we have lost Micheál Lundy, Johnny Duane and Fiontán Ó Curraoin (all in America) and Cathal Sweeney (injured) from our starting side. Mayo have found three or four from their U21 All-Ireland winning panel.

“We will travel down hoping for a colossal upset, but based on all known form it is Mayo’s to lose.”

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