Galway manager Kevin Walsh will pass on the opportunity to rest his marquee players for Saturday’s visit of Monaghan, according to former Farney forward Tommy Freeman.
Irrespective of what happens in their Super 8 fixture at Salthill, the westerners are already assured of a first All-Ireland semi-final appearance since 2001 and, with that semi-final little over a week away, Walsh has the luxury, if he so chooses, of standing down the main figures from their recent victories over Kildare and Kerry.
Bar Peter Cooke coming in for the injured Paul Conroy, the Galway team which started against Kildare last time out was unchanged from the win over Kerry.
Patrick Sweeney and Adrian Varley impressed off the bench in recent weeks, but former Monaghan footballer Freeman expects the Galway boss to keep faith with his strongest team for their final outing of the Super 8s.
The carrot, says Freeman, of continuing their unbeaten streak and, in the process, avoiding Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final, is too substantial for Galway to rest certain players.
“Kevin Walsh will go full-strength from the off so to try and avoid the Dubs in an All-Ireland semi-final,” believes Freeman.
“At the end of the day, Dublin is the team to beat. Kevin will reckon Galway have a better chance of making the All-Ireland final on the other side of the draw.
I know there is only a week of a turnaround and you might worry about what if one of my top players gets injured, but I think Kevin will go all out.
Freeman, who was an All-Star corner-forward in 2007, has been impressed by Galway this year, noting the addition of “that little nasty streak” to their armour, which was absent in recent campaigns.
Aside from Dublin, Galway are the sole team remaining in the championship who are unbeaten.
“They have got Paddy Tally in and he has put a lot of grit into them, a bit of nastiness. You can see it in their performances all year.
“They have got that little nasty streak into them that they were probably missing. They have developed a consistency which they didn’t previously have.
"There was never any doubt that Galway always produced good players, but it was about getting that consistency.
"They’d win a game, play brilliant, and then they could go out the next time and it would be very different. They are gelling fairly well now. They have had a great season so far.”
Such has been their meanness at the back since Tally came on board, Freeman knows championship top-scorer Conor McManus won’t be afforded much breathing space on Saturday evening.
The Monaghan talisman kicked four points (three frees) on the afternoon of their Division 1 league defeat away to Galway in mid-March. Last time out against Kerry, he notched 1-9.
“There is no doubt about it, Conor is going to be targeted and double-marked, as he is in most games. I know he got a free run around in Clones.
"Kerry tried to go man-for-man and I am sure if Eamonn Fitzmaurice has looked back on the video of that game, he’d change that tactic.
"If the five other forwards can pop up with scores and play with the same intensity as they did in Clones, Monaghan will be very close.
Conor McCarthy, there is a lot more in him. He knows that himself. Shane Carey, Dermot Malone have been helping out. Ryan McAnespie has been busy and you also have the help of half-back Karl O’Connell, who has been kicking a point or two in every game.
Freeman is confident Malachy O’Rourke’s charges have overcome the disappointment of being caught by Kerry at the death.
As a result of not getting the job done on their home patch a fortnight ago, the trip to Pearse Stadium has now become the county’s most important fixture in 30 years.
“I was in Clones and it was one I felt we left behind. We were the better team for nearly the full game. Just to be pipped at the end for the draw was disappointing.
"When the final whistle went, you’d swear we lost the match. There was a lull, a silence.
“At the end of the day, being in command of the game for so long and then not getting the result they deserved to get, there would be a certain amount of doubt, but the week’s break will have helped.
“Monaghan are going to Salthill and know a point or two has them in an All-Ireland semi-final for the first time since 1988.
"These boys will be relishing this. I am sure the Kerry game is long forgotten.
"If Monaghan perform as they did, for the most part, against Kerry, it is going to take a good team to stop them.”