Damien Comer relishing Division One test
By Cian O'Connell
Returning to Division One of the Allianz Football League will be a significant test for Galway, but it is a challenge Damien Comer will embrace.
The talented Annaghdown attacker remains an influential figure for Kevin Walsh's outfit, who will play at the highest level in the spring for the first time since 2011.
An interesting Tuam Stadium opener against Tyrone on Sunday January 28 promises to be a revealing encounter for Galway.
"Sure look it growing up, it's always something that I wanted to do," Comer says about being involved in the inter-county arena. "You want to play at the top of the game. You want to play the best teams.
"I haven't played there since I started playing with Galway seniors in 2014 til now. This is my first year playing Division 1. I'm excited, looking forward. Last year I took a few knocks during the league, missed most of the league so this year hopefully if I can keep injury free it'll be an aim of mine and stay on the pitch for most of it. Feeling good now, injury free and long may it continue."
Galway must plan without their Corofin contingent, while Gary O'Donnell, Fiontan O'Curraoin, and Michael Daly will all miss the start of the competition.
Walsh has integrated several of last year's Connacht Under 21 winning team for the Connacht FBD League. "I think it's only right that every year there's new faces brought in because obviously the panel that was there last year wasn't good enough for one reason or another," Comer states.
"Maybe it wasn't the panel, maybe it was something we did. You have to change it up, do something different. Whether that's freshening up the panel with a few younger lads that got to the All-Ireland final, that Under 21 team, if we can bleed a few of them in going forward, it'll be very beneficial.
"That's what the FBD is about, if you can put in a few new players, see what they get on with it and see if they can make that step up from what we've seen. It'll be exciting to see if we can get them involved in the Allianz League."
Finian Hanley, Gary Sice, and Michael Meehan have all retired so it has been a winter of considerable change out west. "Mikey definitely would have been one of my idols growing up," Comer admits.
"He was a forward as well and he was such a good player. He'd done a lot of damage to a good few defenders in his time. It'll be different now not having them around, just their experience alone, not having them lads.
"You'd go to asking for advice, me being a forward as well, I did a bit of free-taking off the ground, Mikey Meehan was very good free-taking off the ground, he'd give you a few tips in the dressing-room.
"Finian was a full-back, asking him what things he didn't like, as a full-forward how I could be a hindrance to a full back and improve my game. Just different things like that.
"Them experienced lads are gone and not having that experience in the dressing room will be different. I suppose myself I'm getting to one of the more experienced lads, even though I'm 24 at the same time. I feel like I've been around for a while, my turn now to pass on to the younger lads."
NUIG student Comer has identified one area that Galway wish to improve upon in 2018. "I suppose looking back on last year would be consistency," Comer acknowledges. "Our problem is we're playing well in one game and the next game we might just be that bit flat. In this day and age, the teams are too good. If you show up flat, you'll get buried.
"I don't know what it's down to. It's not complacency either because we know every team is good. Galway aren't a team that can be complacent going into any game because we haven't proved enough.
"It's different now if the Dubs are going into a game complacent, you can see why because they've been champions for a while now and they're such a good side.
"We haven't that room to be complacent so I don't think it's that. I just think it's lads maybe taking, just concentration, taking their eye off the ball a small bit.
"I don't know, we need to progress game to game, just back to basics, doing the easy things right, messing up simple things. I'd say it's just a lack of concentration when it comes down to it."
Being fit and focused for a demanding League campaign is what Galway intend to do with Comer relishing the opportunity to perform on the grand stage.