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Sean Armstrong return to the Galway panel in 2017.

Sean Armstrong return to the Galway panel in 2017.

Sean Armstrong: 'I really enjoyed this year'

By Cian O'Connell

At the end of an eventful year Sean Armstrong can reflect on the positive steps Galway have taken.

Armstrong made a welcome return to the inter-county game in 2017 delivering fine Championship displays against Mayo, Donegal, and Kerry.

Injury ruled Armstrong out of Galway's Connacht Final defeat to Roscommon which was a significant setback and a reminder of the distance that still needs to be travelled.

"A lot of positives to take from it," Armstrong says about Galway's campaign. "Division One status for next year which is fantastic. "We can get ready to get up to that pace. We’ve a young panel so they’re going to learn so much, gain so much experience playing in Division One."

Securing the Allianz Football League Division Two title was a boost. "Getting the monkey off the back, getting a win in Croke Park and a bit of silverware - I know it was only the League, but it was nice. "The last time I won in Croke Park was 2006 with the All-Ireland club final, so over 10 years ago.

"Been up there a couple of times with Galway but obviously been on the wrong side of a couple of results. Nice to get that winning feeling up there.

"Beating Mayo. Seeing how far and how close Mayo came to winning the All-Ireland again this year, this has to breed a lot of confidence for this group of players. Our real momentum killer was losing to Roscommon. They thoroughly deserved to win on the day, but that knocked our momentum off. We got a bit back against Donegal."

That was a splendid win, but Galway exited at the Quarter-Final stage when losing to Kerry.

"I think we feared them a small bit," Armstrong states. "Personally, and a few of the older lads were trying to drive into them and say they’re not to be feared, to drive into them for 70 minutes, not stand off them, give them too much credit. But I think we did that a small bit at the start.

"Again in the second half, we were just lacking that bit of belief. But Burkey (Ian Burke) had a great goal chance, (Damien) Comer had, I had a great goal chance – if one or two of them went in it would have changed the game instantly. And then we would have had Kerry come out of third or fourth gear.

"I really think we didn’t do ourselves any justice against Kerry. I think we’re way better than that to be quite honest. A lot of the players would also feel the same way, that they didn’t do themselves justice."

Ultimately it meant that for the second year running Galway watched Mayo, a team they had beaten out west, return to an All Ireland decider.

"The older you get, the more you think we should be out there," Armstrong remarks.

"If our lads develop the mind frame of getting some sort of success, even getting to the last four would be another further step for Galway.

"We’ve been in the quarters the last two years in a row. To taste 70 minutes away from an All-Ireland final. Develop that mentality within the group.

"You’d have to take confidence from watching Mayo because we beat them the last two years in a row. If we can beat Mayo, why can’t we get to the last four or get to August or September?"

It was at that stage Mayo were outfoxed by Jim Gavin's Dublin. When Armstrong was a cadet he encountered Gavin, who made a positive impression on the Salthill-Knocknacarra clubman.

"I’ve been fortunate – not too many people know this – but I played football with Jim in the army, alongside him," Armstrong reveals. "He was playing full-forward, I was corner-forward. The army used to take on the banks, kind of an inter-firm job.

"Sure he’s air corps, a pilot. A man of very fine detail. I’m sure there is no stone left unturned in that Dublin set-up.

"I was fortunate to meet a couple of the Dublin lads a couple of weeks back up in Dublin and they keep singing Jim Gavin’s praises.

"Just a class act on the pitch. You could see how he could transfer that to off the pitch, or management."

Armstrong hopes to be involved with Galway in 2018 depending on how an ongoing back issue responds in the coming weeks and months.

"I really enjoyed this year, I’d obviously love to give next year another rattle because I think I can give it another little bit extra and go a little bit further obviously to try improve on my performances, but if my body won’t allow me my body won’t allow me," Armstrong admits.

"So we’ll try come up with some sort of game-plan to get it right. I’m definitely going to give it a go and see what happens, but if it starts giving way or spasming up then that’s my body telling me ‘right, enough is enough.’ And the way it’s going now it’s becoming a serious stamina game, even when you are inside in the corner.”

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