FEW counties will be as attack-minded as Galway this summer, but Michael Meehan wonders whether such a positive tactic can lead to success.
Under former manager Peter Ford, Galway took on a more defensive hue but they have returned to a more traditional style under Liam Sammon.
They were leading scorers in the top tier of the NFL but a tendency to concede goals saw them lose out on a league final place on points difference.
With more and more teams — Westmeath, Down and Cavan among them — opting for the blanket defence, it remains to be seen how Sammon’s methods fare.
“Time will only tell,” said Meehan. “The game has evolved. We will keep doing what we are doing and hopefully do it well, but Kerry are the benchmark. Kerry play a bit of both, which is probably the ideal way of doing it.”
Galway were left in little doubt the extent of the gap they have to bridge when Kerry visited Salthill during the league.
That defeat — and an unfortunate loss to Donegal — aside, the league was a huge success for Sammon, with their commitment to quick, attacking football and minimal hand-passing finding favour with the neutral and Galway supporter alike.
“Every county would want to see that but if we won an All-Ireland football playing crap football I’m sure the supporters would be happy too, although Galway have always been associated with footballing teams down the years.”
The new approach has been forged on the training field where Meehan says 95% of the sessions involve ball work.
Meehan calls it a return to basics rather than ‘old school’ but he is clearly enjoying it as much as anyone as his rich vein of form at full-forward would suggest.
The new style isn’t the only catalyst for the Caltra man’s Midas touch. Páraic Joyce has been asked to man the pivotal centre-forward spot and, from there, his class has seeped into every pore of the forward line.
“Páraic is having a phenomenal season. His awareness and range of passing is second to none, so it makes things easier inside when he is putting in good ball to you.
“When he is doing that, you have to duly oblige and put it over the bar or whatever. We have worked on getting the ball forward as quick as we can and getting scores this year.
“That is Liam’s style of play and mentality. We have a lot of work to do on it yet but we are hopefully improving a small bit.”
Roscommon had their problems well noted prior to the Connacht quarter-final last month but the expectation was that the sparks inside the county would ignite some backlash from the side.
Instead, Galway cantered to a hollow 16-point win at Pearse Stadium in what was essentially a dressed-up challenge match.
“We didn’t really know what to expect coming in to Roscommon because they had a different manager to the league and we knew it would take a solid enough performance to win that game.
“We are none the wiser now after winning well but to get off the mark with the victory was satisfying. After the decent league campaign, we wanted to transfer that into the championship.”
Leitrim offer their next examination on Sunday and, though the end result seems predictable, the journey is liable to be more arduous. The sides met in Carrick-on-Shannon last year, with Galway never quite managing to get entirely comfortable before recording an eventual four-point win.
Pearse Stadium is the venue this Sunday.
“That does make a difference because we went down there at the same stage of the championship last year and struggled to get out alive,” said Meehan.
“They had a couple of goal chances which, if they’d got, would have beaten us on the day. We know it will be a tough again. Des Dolan is over them and he has them solid and organised. We just have to be careful.”
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