There’s part of Shane Walsh that believes Galway were possibly spared last year because they faced Dublin in an All-Ireland semi-final and not the final.
Not that he can speak on behalf of runners-up Tyrone, but he’s seen how the sting of final defeats linger. So ask him if that Super 8 defeat to Monaghan in Pearse Stadium effectively denied his team a final berth and his answer is not what you might expect.
“To be honest, if you’re going to lose to Dublin, I’d prefer to lose to them in a semi-final than a final. There’s this big whole thing about a final and there’d be this aftermath after it. I’m not a big believer in going that route about it. I said if we’re going to beat them we might as well beat them in the semi-final and get on with it there. That’s the same way, if you’re going to get beaten by them let’s get on with it in the semi-final.
“That’s just my belief on it anyways. There’s a whole load made about it being a final and sure if what was to go the same way it did, what was the point of leaving it until the final? I just think, for us, obviously we’re back to scratch and a level playing field like everyone else. We just have to see what it brings this year.”
Having beaten Kerry and Kildare, Galway welcomed Monaghan to Salthill with a last-four spot already sealed and it might have blunted them, Walsh concedes. “Maybe, subconsciously it probably showed that inexperience in the group and that’s something that will only come with time, that maybe we thought, ‘we’re through to an All-Ireland semi-final, it’s great, Galway haven’t been there in 16, 17 years, it’s great to be in there’.
“Everyone was thinking about that and Monaghan came along, they had everything to play for and had to win that game to get into the semi-finals as well. That was a huge game for them.
“I suppose it was subconsciously, that probably played a factor in it, in that we were saying we’re through to a semi-final. Myself included, I’d never played in an All-Ireland semi-final before. I’m six or seven years in with Galway now at this stage. That’s something we will learn from, Kevin (Walsh) will definitely make sure that something like that doesn’t occur again because in fairness, that’s a big part of our building blocks that we won’t be taking any team for granted or any game for granted.”
This time last year, Galway were fancied for the drop from Division 1 only to go the entire round schedule unbeaten. But they set themselves up as difficult to beat and with the help of coach Paddy Tally, so it proved.
Now that he has switched to become Down manager, a change in approach is anticipated. Walsh, who hopes to play some part in Sunday’s FBD Connacht League final against Roscommon having sat out the semi-final win over Mayo, isn’t giving much away on that count.
“Every year we’ve been adapting our game and trying to find what suits to go forward. Kevin started at level one in his first year and he had to start somewhere and we’ve been moving the blocks as we go along. We are tweaking things like every team, like Dublin has done the last couple of years. They haven’t won by doing the exact same thing the year before.
“We’ve to keep moving and hopefully it’s the right direction. That’s the trust we have in Kevin’s management. They’ve brought it from the bottom and now they’re starting to compete against the Division 1 teams. That’s the table you want to be dining at.”
Former captain Paul Conroy is expected back before the end of the league but Galway must do without retired Seán Armstrong and the Sweeney twins, Patrick and Cathal, who have stepped away for the season.
“Cathal had been starting the whole year, so you are replacing a starter there and Patrick had been in and out of the team as well,” says Walsh. “Look, they were great players to have in the dressing room, great personalities, good craic, everyone got on well with them.
“You still feel that gap there because if there was ever chat going on, they were nearly stuck in the middle of it.
“Look, that’s the way things are. It is like when Army (Armstrong) moved on, you have to get on with these things.
“Hopefully, the lads do come back in because they are only 26, there is definitely time for them to come back in after this year, so who knows?”