He has had a foot in both camps and also has a helicopter view of what’s happening in the province, so it carries a bit of weight when John Tobin tips his native Galway to win tomorrow’s Connacht final replay in Castlebar.
The Tuam Stars clubman, who is now Connacht GAA Provincial Games Manager, had stints in charge of Galway and Roscommon and also managed the Connacht inter-provincial side, after finishing a decorated playing career which ran for a decade and a half from the early 1970s.
An All-Ireland minor winner in 1970 and an U21 winner two years later with his senior debut sandwiched in between, Tobin enjoyed plenty of provincial success but the quest for ultimate glory was denied when he played his last time for the Tribesmen when coming on as a sub in the ill-fated final of ’83.
Three years later he guided Galway to the All-Ireland minor title — when current manager Kevin Walsh was midfield — and since then he has managed Tuam Stars, Galway, Roscommon and Connacht in addition to a variety of other roles in the GAA.
He was in Pearse Stadium last weekend, when Galway and Roscommon finished tied at 0-13 to 1-10 after a game played in treacherous conditions.
That was the first drawn Connacht final since 1998, when Galway defeated Roscommon in the replay after extra-time, and subsequently went on to win the All-Ireland that year. Three years later, when they came through the back door, the Tribesmen beat a Roscommon team in the qualifiers which Tobin had led to the Connacht title.
Now, having knocked reigning five-time champions Mayo out in the semi-final on June 18, Tobin thinks Galway have what it takes to win their first Connacht title since 2008.
“The Galway forward line have potential and in fairness the type of game that evolved the last day was a very defensive game, and midfield wasn’t a significant factor.
“Better conditions would suit Galway and Roscommon. But I don’t think Galway will use the same tactic, of allowing Roscommon to get their kick-outs uncontested,” said Tobin.
Both teams were criticised in the wake of last weekend’s stalemate, when kick-passing was forfeited in favour of hand-passing and keeping possession.
But Tobin was excited by what he saw and says both teams have the ability to up it another level when they get the chance to operate in better conditions.
“The game last weekend wasn’t bad considering the conditions. It was actually good, the weather was horrendous and I don’t know do people appreciate just how bad.
“That ball must have been like a bar of soap, and the handling was good. There was a lot of it, but probably the prevailing conditions dictated that.
With 24,234 turning out to see that game, Tobin says the replay will be a better spectacle with the players able to throw off the shackles having the experience of last Sunday behind them.
“People are accustomed to the occasion, the crowd, the game, they have just played it.
“So hopefully there will be less pressure and hopefully the prevailing conditions will be much more conducive to playing attractive football. Both of them are very good at it.”
Although he predicts a win for Kevin Walsh’s side, Tobin thinks that Roscommon can also have a huge say as the championship reaches its later stages. Tobin believes that the Connacht championship has never been as strong and could have a big representation at the business end of the All-Ireland series.
“Galway and Roscommon are emerging teams. The Connacht championship over the next number of years will be very strong.
“With Croke Park, when they get into the quick, open expanse of it, it’s a very quick surface and these teams have pace. They will revel there if they get there. I hope they both do.
“I would fancy Mayo to win their game against Kildare too.
“Against Fermanagh in the first minutes of the second-half Mayo were back to themselves. They brought a different level of intensity. They showed great hunger and there was a great directness in their play. They are on the way back.
“I also fancy at least three Connacht teams to be in the quarter-finals and I have a slight feeling, even against the run of play, Sligo will beat Clare.
“It all augurs well for Connacht football. It’s the strongest Connacht football has been for a long time.”
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