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Damien Comer pictured at the launch of the Electric Ireland Higher Education Championships.
Damien Comer pictured at the launch of the Electric Ireland Higher Education Championships.

Damien Comer optimistic about future out west


By Cian O’Connell

Promotion and Championship victories over Mayo and Donegal illustrated the potential within Galway; defeats to Roscommon and Kerry provided a stark reminder of the distance that still must be travelled. Progress is being made, but Galway want to make further strides.

January, February, and March promise to be revealing months for Kevin Walsh’s team, who make a welcome return to Division One of the Allianz Football League.

A developing Galway outfit will be tested with Damien Comer, an influential figure, looking forward to the upcoming examinations. “Yeah, definitely, you are playing against the top teams,” Annaghdown native Comer says.

“You can compare yourself and getting these games at this time of the year gives you more confidence going into the summer months. Look, we have a relatively young team so the experience of going down to Kerry or up to Donegal playing Dublin and Mayo and the likes at this time of the year will stand to us.”

There was plenty to supply encouragement in 2017, but it could still be classed as a curious campaign. “I suppose it was, of course we were happy with the Mayo game,” Comer reflects. "A bit of disappointment surrounded the Roscommon game, but from that it seems to be a thing that is creeping into our game, a bit of inconsistency.

“I thought we sorted it during the League, but it is something we are going to have to look at again going forward. Trying to get the best out of ourselves every day we go out, that is something we are going to have to work on for the season ahead.”

Damien Comer (r) celebrates with Johnny Heaney after victory over Mayo in the 2017 Connacht Senior Football Championship.
Damien Comer (r) celebrates with Johnny Heaney after victory over Mayo in the 2017 Connacht Senior Football Championship.

Galway have reached the All Ireland Quarter-Final stage in 2016 and 2017 before exiting in disappointing fashion. Another fascinating Connacht first round clash with Mayo is on the agenda early next summer.

“Yeah, our ambition is never to reach a Quarter-Final or even a Semi, we are all in it for the one thing,” Comer remarks.

“So this year hopefully all going well we can do something, but we have a tough draw. In the first round ourselves and Mayo again will be battling off early in the season.

“It is going to be a long road from there whether you go the front door or the back door. Mayo have showed how you can go through the back door and still be successful, whichever way it is we are going to be going hell for leather for that game, to see where it can take us. Hopefully we can get that Connacht title back.”

The format for the last eight is precisely where every inter-county team craves to operate. “Obviously there is going to be massive speculation because any time there is something new brought in to the system it is going to be the biggest talked about thing,” Comer admits.

“Nobody really knows what it is going to bring, but it is new, everyone has big expectations for it. Until it is played out, nobody is really going to know what the story is with it, but I'm looking forward to it because it is something different. Obviously that is where most of the football is going to be at so everyone is aiming to be in that top eight.”

Galway forward Damien Comer in full stride.
Galway forward Damien Comer in full stride.

The Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup is high on Comer’s agenda presently. Maurice Sheridan, who featured in a couple of All Ireland finals for Mayo, is an emerging coach in the west and NUIG have stitched a decent team together including a raft of Galway underage players.

“Ever since I've been there this is the strongest Galway base that has been involved,” Comer says.

“Other years there would be two or three max, but there must be up to 10 players in there on the training panel for Galway. It is a big boost, but getting the balance between the two is going to be a bit difficult in January.

“Exciting times ahead; as the Under 21s showed there is some good young footballers in Galway. Hopefully now they can progress on to the seniors to show what they are worth.” That is precisely what Comer continues to do in the maroon of Galway, Annaghdown, and NUIG.

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