Galway captain Damien Comer has bullishly declared that the rapidly improving Tribesmen are capable of winning this year’s All-Ireland.
The rampaging attacker has never won a Championship game at Croke Park, just like the rest of his colleagues. But he insists that after pushing Dublin hard in the Allianz league final they’re making the sort of progress that allows them to dream big.
History hasn’t been kind to Connacht teams like Mayo and Roscommon who have talked openly about chasing All-Irelands in recent seasons, though Comer didn’t pull his punches.
Asked how far he thinks Galway can go this year, Comer lived up to his reputation as an aggressive forward with a frank response.
“I think we can win an All-Ireland. Honestly, I wouldn’t be playing football if I didn’t think we could win an All-Ireland. I think the form that we’ve shown in the league can prove that, that we can go the distance with the big teams. That’s obviously the aim. Whether it happens this year... if it doesn’t happen this year, we’re going to go for it again next year. Hopefully we’ll win an All-Ireland by the end of my playing career anyway.”
Comer is vital to Galway’s chances of landing the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 2001. He has played in two national finals this year, finishing as a runner-up with NUI Galway in the Sigerson Cup decider and with Galway in the National League.
On both occasions he performed strongly and has been named PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for April on the strength of his display in the league final.
It was UCD that overcome NUI Galway in that third-level final in February and the chances are that Galway will have to beat Dublin to win that All-Ireland in September.
“There’s no doubt they are a formidable side, they have shown that with their form and they have won leagues and All-Ireland titles but they are there to be beaten,” said Comer of Jim Gavin’s outfit.
“Monaghan beat them the week after we drew with them in the group game in Pearse Stadium and we probably had chances to beat them at Croke Park in the final as well. So they are there for the taking. But you can’t stand back and admire them. They are a great team but if you stand back and admire them they’ll show you how good they are. That’s the other side of it, they are a great team, but they can be caught.”
Dublin appear to have figured out how to overcome teams that set up defensively against them and blew both Tyrone and Monaghan away in last year’s Championship.
Mayo have consistently troubled Dublin with their more aggressive, attacking approach and Comer feels this is the right way to play Dublin.
“Mayo attacked them and they were aggressive with them whereas a lot of teams stand back and admire them and, as I said, if you do that to the Dubs they will destroy you, there is no other way about it. They are a formidable side but if you can go at them and go toe to toe with them, you have every chance of taking them.”
Galway addressed their consistency issues throughout spring and were utterly miserly at the back, conceding just one goal in eight games, to Monaghan.
It’s mentally where they could struggle in the really big games at Croke Park because they’ve only won one competitive game there — last year’s Division 2 league final against Kildare — since the 2001 All-Ireland final win over Meath.
“It’s just another pitch,” maintained Comer. “You have losses all over the country, we’ve had losses in our own backyard in Pearse Stadium, in Tuam Stadium. I don’t think it’s a defining thing where a game is played. It’s just that if you’re not up for it, or if you’re not on point or not consistently performing, no matter where you’re playing, you’re going to get beaten.”
Comer felt it was the Dublin players, not their raucous supporters, that proved the difference in the league final.
“It was more the subs for Dublin, the use of their bench was a key factor. When they brought the fresh legs on, we probably struggled a bit to keep up with them. I think that had more of an influence than the crowd or the pitch.”
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