Kernan wants Galway players to 'fulfil their potential'

After winning the Connacht FBD League title there recently in Joe Kernan's first match as manager, Galway will return to the Bronx's Gaelic Park for a showdown with New York in the opening round of the All-Ireland Football Championship next summer.

After winning the Connacht FBD League title there recently in Joe Kernan's first match as manager, Galway will return to the Bronx's Gaelic Park for a showdown with New York in the opening round of the All-Ireland Football Championship next summer.

It may not turn out to be the best indicator of how well Galway will do in the 2010 Championship, but by then Kernan should have had enough time to put his stamp on Galway.

"We will be satisfied if we come back to New York in May with a good league campaign under our belts, having qualified for the FBD final again and knowing we have a team going into the Championship that will cause all teams an awful lot of problems," admitted Kernan.

"My job from here on in is to get the Galway players to fulfil their potential. If they do that, who knows where it will end."

On the sunshine-soaked all-weather pitch at Gaelic Park, Galway hassled and harried for the entire 60 minutes to run out comfortable 1-18 to 0-4 winners in the FBD League decider two weeks ago.

They chased back. They showed for one another. They played like a team and played with the bit between their teeth, obviously out to impress the new management. The change in mindset from previous Galway teams was in no small part due to the new man at the helm. Kernan gave his native Armagh a first All-Ireland success back in 2002 and now aims to make a similar impact out west.

"Armagh players are one thing, but I will be working with the material I have here. I have plenty of good footballers.

"We will just try and change a few things, like their work rate, and try and make more of a team game out of it. There would have been things said about Galway in the past - like that they didn't play as a team, but that is one thing we want to change and get that desire to win.

"The last five minutes in each half is the most important part of any game. Hopefully you will see this team stepping up to the plate more in the last five minutes than they did in the past.

"It is a physical game and when you haven't got the ball you have to fight to get it. It is a natural part of the game.

"Maybe before in times gone Galway might not have fought hard enough for it, but as you saw against New York, the boys chased, harried well, but it's only starting.

"There are so many things that need to be done, but the attitude was good in the game and we can ask for no more. From that point of view I am very happy," he added.

The attitude which Kernan refers to was epitomised by newcomer Anthony Griffin, otherwise known as 'Toto'. He linked well with Barry Cullinane in the middle of the park while bringing the half-backs and half-forwards into the game.

Kernan agreed: "He played well. I saw him in his county final and he played very well. He was one of our best players and I'm delighted for him.

"We only asked him a week prior if he wanted to come to America and he had no hesitation in saying yes. That is a good attitude to have and it's that kind of attitude we are looking from everybody."

To help the transition of the new manager are Tom Naughton and Sean O'Domhnaill and Kernan does not downsize the importance of his backroom duo.

"I was coming into the job blind. I had asked what people would be available, and I'm very happy with the choice of the two boys and their attitude. From the minute I spoke to them, they wanted to be part of the set-up. That speaks volumes in itself.

"Sean and Tom know more about Galway football than I do. They're going to enlighten me a lot more about Galway football. They both played the game so they know what it is all about.

"They have the respect in the dressing room from the players. That is very important."

The respect goes both ways and Naughton and O'Domhnaill feel Galway now have the manager to take Galway back to the big days at Croke Park.

"I wouldn't be here unless I thought they had the right man," explained O'Domhnaill.

"When Joe talks, everyone listens. You can't question what he has achieved. He has done it all. I spoke with Joe and was very taken in by what he had to say.

"I am very willing to put in the time and effort because I know Joe is there and will do the same.

It is a feeling shared by Naughton, who added: "I have known Joe for a long time. He is very committed in everything he does. This group of Galway players need something like that.

"They will have to give him some time before he can compare his time here with his time in Armagh, not after one match. This time next year we will see whether the team and players have improved their game plan and their actual achievement.

"Galway have not achieved an awful lot in the last number of years, but Rome wasn't built in a day, so it's going to take time."

O'Domhnaill added: "The main thing Joe brings is heart and soul. Everybody who knows Joe Kernan, with the style he had at Crossmaglen and Armagh, know that he gives heart.

"Maybe that is what Galway have been lacking over the last few years - a bit of heart and pride in wearing the jersey. Whatever team Joe puts out, they will be fit, they will be strong and they will want to win.

"Every year, people say Galway are always there or thereabouts in the Championship, but we are not showing our ability.

"The most important thing as a team is we want to win a quarter-final game at Croke Park and go from there. This is a young panel, so it will take time.

"We will see the answer to whether Galway has made any progress in six months' time after seven or eight hard league games."

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up