John Divilly: Galway must cling on like cornered badgers until Kerry snap

Gareth Bradshaw (below) would be the better option to counter Kieran Donaghy as there’s more bite and devilment in him. Donaghy doesn’t like his feathers ruffled and is very prone to verbal diarrhoea and yellow cards, writes John Divilly.

Galway finally let the handbrake off against Donegal. We were treated to an exhibition of scoring. It was the Galway style and panache we’ve all been waiting to see as we know this group of players have the potential to achieve great honours.

We have now played three Division 1 teams in the championship and are about to get a crack at one of the ‘Top Four’.

The question is, do we travel up the M6-N4 and into Jones Road as a confident group ready to take a big scalp?

Or are we merely venturing up with a sliver of hope of beating Kerry?

When a management team sits down after a victory, they crack open the popcorn, wash it down with some moonshine, perform various high five manoeuvres and take selfies. When the dust settles, they reflect and analyse. What did we do well? How did we do it? Who was responsible for it and where can we improve?

They will study each player’s individual stats as well as team stats. Shot selection, tackle analysis, turnover analysis, possession lost and kick-outs. Then the opposition stats in the exact same manner to hone in on your individual and team weaknesses so you can fix them for the next round.

When a management team sits down after a defeat, they kick the nearest bin or steward on the way into the dressing room, eff and blind any person or thing in sight and God help the first person who says “it wasn’t your day”.

Then they climb into the Batcave and question everything in the lead up to that game. How were preparations? Intensity at training? Mentality ready? Did we respect the opposition? Did we get the match-ups right? Too much media hype?

There are always more questions after a defeat.

But I believe when you win a match you should also pose the above questions. This keeps the management on their toes and allows no complacency to creep into your thoughts. It keeps your dressing room language specific and players feed into this appetite to be even better the next time they take to the field.

In what areas did Galway perform well against Donegal and where can we improve to beat Kerry?

Galway were much more offensive and broke our Championship goal drought with four well-executed moves. We were more competitive around the middle third and all our outfield players moved for Bernard Power’s restarts.

Power was excellent. He was wrongly castigated after Tipperary beat Galway in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final. We need to stop rollicking our goalkeepers when we lose matches, we need to coach them instead.

We conceded no goals, which is always a bonus, and kept Donegal to five scored frees. This is a big positive for the Galway defence as we only conceded six scored frees against Roscommon and five against Mayo.

The minor changes Kevin Walsh and company made to the team worked and we looked determined, aggressive and purposeful. We came out fighting, like a wounded animal against Donegal, no doubt stung by criticism from outside the dressing room.

When a badger is cornered, he has been known to bite his aggressor’s leg and won’t let go until he hears a snap. I would like to see every Galway player and team that ever steps onto a pitch fight tooth and nail for every ball, for every minute of every game. You will never be criticised by true Galway GAA followers if you perform with heart and honesty.

Correction, you will be criticised by the online trolls, but you can solve that problem very easily with the Delete/Remove button.

How can we improve on last week’s performance?

I believe we need to be brave again and possibly make more minor changes to the team. Eamonn Fitzmaurice was also in Pearse Stadium three weeks ago. I seriously doubt he will make the same mistake as Rory Gallagher and not play a big man inside.

We have to plan for Donaghy at 14 with Geaney and O’Donoghue in the corners. It doesn’t look like our biggest defender — David Walsh (6’4) — is in the running. I would go with Gareth Bradshaw or Gary O’Donnell to fill that gap. Both are experienced and physically strong. They can also rotate between full-back and centre-back. I think Bradshaw would be the better option as there’s more bite and devilment in him. Donaghy doesn’t like his feathers ruffled and is very prone to verbal diarrhoea and yellow cards. For me it’s Liam Silke on James O’Donoghue and Declan Kyne on Paul Geaney. Both are quite capable markers on their day but need to be very, very mindful of yellow cards early on.

While we need them both to be tenacious, they don’t want to be on thin ice after five minutes.

I would like to see Johnny Heaney pick up Donnchadh Walsh. Johnny has the ability to hurt Kerry on the scoreboard and he can perform this duty better if he is tracking the roaming Donnchadh. More importantly though, he should know how to sweep in front of our full-back line when Walsh is not involved in the attack.

Gary O’Donnell at number six and Cillian McDaid as the other wing-back. I know McDaid is virtually unproven at this level but Galway took a chance with Ian Burke last week to great effect. McDaid, along with another star of the future Sean Andy Kelly, was immense for the Galway U21s on their run to this year’s All-Ireland final. I think he would relish a good gallop in Croke park and would carry good ball into our inside men.

Our midfield pairing of Tom Flynn and Paul Conroy should be chomping at the bit, to show they can produce back-to-back dominance in the midfield sector.

This is the critical sector, for me, for a Galway victory. The Kerry forwards are class if given quality ball. We have to ensure that not only do we limit the quantity of ball going into the Kerry forwards, more importantly we must ensure its contested. We can’t allow uncontested ball to be kicked in by the Kerry midfielders or half-backs.

David Moran, Paul Murphy, Tadhg Morley, and Peter Crowley will spray quality ball into pockets of space for the O’Donoghue-Donaghy-Geaney trio, but only if we let them.

How can we counteract the Kerry half-back line? I would play Michael Daly, Damian Comer and Shane Walsh in our half-forward line. They have a height advantage on the Kerry half-backs and are an obvious target for our kick-outs. They are strong enough to win breaking ball. Are they brave enough though? They are if they believe in themselves. They have the pace and scoring ability to hurt Kerry. They have the fitness to track any runs the Kerry lads make. They are well capable of providing ‘on the shoulder runs’ for Galway’s inside line.

Who would I play inside? If we are going to Croke Park believing we can really win, then I would go with Danny Cummins, Sean Armstrong and Ian Burke. But that’s “six real forwards” in our attack! I know. We will need six to beat Kerry. All three inside men are crafty, can win their own ball and have a goal-poaching instinct. Danny Cummins hasn’t seen too much championship action so far, but he has the knack of producing a big performance when we least expect it.

One man we’re always hoping will deliver is Shane Walsh. He has most attributes that we all dream about having as schoolkids — equally comfortable off both sides, free-taking with both feet, blistering pace. Akin to Michael Donnellan he gets quicker when he’s on a solo run and he can magic his way between defenders and kick breathtaking scores. Shane reminds me a little of Ronnie O’Sullivan. Flamboyant yet unpredictable. Untouchable skillset but not always on display in the big moments of the big games.

Shane is from my own club, and we all know that he has the capacity to be a game-changer and a game-winner. We all hope he leads the Green ‘n Gold on a merry dance tomorrow; try a few more give-n-gos Shane, they’re easy to execute and very hard to stop.

Can we stop the Kingdom? It’s very possible but it depends on our set-up. We know that Clare and Cork scored 1-12 and 0-15 respectively against Kerry so far in this year’s championship. Certainly, Cork should have scored a couple of goals but they clearly lacked real belief that they could actually win that day. This shows that Kerry can be porous at the back. Galway can potentially score more than 15 points.

Kerry rely a lot on David Moran in midfield. He is their conductor. We managed to nullify and frustrate Donegal’s conductor, Michael Murphy, the last day. We have another opportunity to nullify a big player tomorrow.

The biggest conundrum facing Galway is that Kerry possess three or four Paddy McBreartys. We saw what one top drawer forward did to us.

Do Galway go back into our shell after beating Donegal, keep the score down and hit Kerry on the counter? Or will the Galway team play like badgers from the off and attack until we break Kerry. Hassle them, intimidate them and surround them lads. Above all else, don’t fear them.



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