The shock return of veteran Gary Sice to the Galway senior panel could be a masterstroke, according to one of the players who burst on the scene with him a decade and a half ago.
Barry Cullinane was key part of a Galway U-21 team with Sice which captured the All-Ireland title in 2005 before progressing to the senior ranks and he’s confident the 36-year old can still make an impact.
Indeed, Cullinane thinks that Sice can have the same impact as another member of that victorious U-21 team Michael Meehan when he made a retirement U-turn a few years ago.
Sice, who last featured for Galway in the 2017 Connacht final loss to Roscommon, has surprisingly been called into Padraic Joyce’s squad as they prepare for the return to inter-county action in a few weeks.
Sice has continued to be a key man in Corofin’s dominance in Galway and their capturing of three successive All-Ireland club titles.
“We were wondering if we’d see a bolter from the club championship into the senior panel. I didn’t think it was going to be Gary Sice. It’s a turn-up for the books,” said Cullinane.
“I saw him playing against Salthill/Knocknacarra in the quarter final and he was excellent. I think Padraic knows he needs in-form guys on the panel and he is really, really experienced, fit and playing well so why not have him in there?
“If he was a 26-year-old playing like he is you’d say he had to be in there – it’s just that he’s 36 that we’re talking about it.
"It’s a tribute to him, the shape he’s kept himself in and how fit and injury-free he has been.
“Whatever will come out of it will be positive. Having Gary Sice in there, no more than when Michael Meehan went back a couple of years ago, it definitely won’t do them any harm.” Sice could get a taste of inter county action again when Galway face Mayo and Dublin in their remaining Division 1 games, before their Connacht championship semi-final against Sligo on 8 November.
As many as nine of the Corofin squad are expected to be named in Joyce’s panel, and Cullinane thinks having their lynchpin Sice in Joyce’s team is a smart move.
“It was only when there is no one at the game that you hear what’s going on out on the pitch, and looking at Corofin, Gary is the one that’s conducting that forward line. He’s so vocal, he talks the younger lads through the game.
“Whenever things have gotten tight for Corofin in the last few years he is the fella who comes up with the scores when they need them. Last year against Tuam he was the one who saved them in the drawn game.
“I’d say we’d be doing him a disservice if we say it’s just for his experience that he has been recalled.
“Padraic sees a hugely experienced guy, who knows how to win. He’ll get an opportunity in one of these two league games, but there is no time for lads to be trying to find form. He has picked a squad on form and Gary ticks all those boxes.
“It’s a short season, he doesn’t have to go through the three or four months of pre-season and gym, with all the slogging in Loughgeorge. All he has to do is play.”