Kevin Walsh wants Galway to develop further
By Cian O'Connell
Progress, development, and culture are among the words being used on the banks of the Corrib.
Kevin Walsh is spearheading a Galway revival with the last 18 months providing encouragement and some silverware too.
The 2016 Connacht Senior title was followed by the Division Two Allianz Football League crown in the spring.
It was a further sign of Galway's improvement, but Championship challenges are arriving thick and fast in the west.
Mayo were perched on the summit between 2011 and 2015, but Galway and Roscommon are beginning to stir. Walsh stresses what must be done in order for teams to prosper at the highest level.
"I like coaching and I do a lot of it on the field, but in order to get the best out of that we have a mantra inside and that is we look after the person first," Walsh says.
"The personal qualities are what will bring out a performance, it will bring out the psychological resets, it will bring out everything else in a player that you require.
"The GAA has to move on from just running around the pitches in the middle of winter. There is lots to be learned out there; learning is crucial and that is something we would put high priority on is personal development and development of skills.
"It is so early to be judging people on where they are on results is just wrong. "We would not judge ourselves on results for a certain amount of time, but at some stage results have to start coming to show that we are doing the right thing."
So where do Galway currently stand? "Where are we compared to 12 months ago?," Walsh ponders. "It is great to be promoted, to get a win over Mayo for a second time which is important and we have given ourselves a chance to retain the Connacht title which has been done only once by Galway in the last 30 years.
"It is something that these players can strive to create their own bit of history, albeit we found ourselves having to play five Division One teams in our last five games in Connacht and there are not too many teams in Munster, Leinster or even Ulster that can say that.
"The beauty of this is that Connacht is getting tougher which you would hope in the long run would make us a better team."
Walsh managed Sligo between 2009 and 2013, but feels the inter-county game has transformed further since that period. “Yeah, totally, to be honest," Walsh replies.
"You surround yourself with the right people that will full-time question you and audit you and that you’re willing to sit down every Tuesday night and look to see what we feel we’re not doing well ourselves and take that to try to improve it, you have to improve yourself as a person first of all.
"If you’re not different in some way, you’re not learning."
The role takes far more time and thought now according to Walsh. “I suppose it’s all-consuming and if you’re watching this GAA Nua, if you look at the amount of stuff, the amount of improvements that have come in and it’s all for the better without a shadow of a doubt," is Walsh's assessment.
"If you’re surrounded by a backroom team that wants to improve all the time, it’s brilliant, it’s educational, but it puts more pressure on yourself because it’s more things to be minding, more things to do.
"One of the lads said about this game being gone professional, it’s gone far beyond it. Even the players that when they work, they work in their daily lives and in their time down a professional would be sitting down at home with his legs up.
"These boys have to go training and I think it’s time people realise the amount of training that’s put in here and that it’s tough going, but I think people say about people not wanting it, it’s hard, but players want to be here and that’s important."
Despite all the scientific advancements, gut feeling has to be used too Walsh reckons. “Huge challenge," Walsh admits. "I’ve a motto myself that less is more at times. It’s the small percentages you can get from that and knowing not to use it and when to use it.
"If you’re trying to do too much, everything’s neglected. There’s a huge balance on what’s the right thing. You have these GPS systems and all this type of stuff.
"You hear these celebrity journalists shouting about 13 kilometres and I’d be more into seven or eight kilometres if that’s required in the right places.
"It’s important we don’t get hoodwinked by a certain amount of that stuff and say, ‘This is great’ when you’re actually missing out on the big trick.
"So you’re right, the balance has to be found there and that’s something, going back to your question about the management eight years ago, seven years ago, if you keep learning you’ll learn that maybe sometimes you’re doing too much."
Now the next challenge for Galway to embrace is a Connacht decider against Roscommon in Salthill. A demanding match awaits. "Well I don’t think people are writing off Roscommon," Walsh states.
"I think if you hit the bookie it’s a two-point game so that’s not a write-off.
"As I said if we were to concede a goal like we did against Mayo, that’s the two points gone straight away and we’re in trouble.
"We have things to improve on like you said but it’s certainly not a write-off. "I’m sure Roscommon have approached this completely differently, they’ve come to finish strong in the League and went to retain their status. They are fresh; I’m hoping we’re fresh.
"We had to take hold of every single League game ourselves to get promoted, has that taken something off us or is the panel strong enough to carry that? I suppose the questions will be answered."
Watching it unfold promises to be interesting.