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Concannon satisfied to retain Division One status ahead of Championship

Galway senior football team selector John Concannon pictured at the Connacht GAA Championship launch. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Galway senior football team selector John Concannon pictured at the Connacht GAA Championship launch. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

By Cian O’Connell

The Allianz Football League was simply about survival for Galway. Considering the volume of injuries, retaining Division One status was the mission that needed to be accomplished.

That several emerging players were afforded ample opportunities ensured Galway took some positives from the campaign.

Galway selector John Concannon was delighted that Pádraic Joyce’s outfit avoided relegation. “At one stage we had 21 injuries when we had a training session one evening,” the Milltown clubman reflects.

“We could only play small six, seven a side games. It is so unprecedented. You can look at one way, it is great that the younger lads (got games).

“It mightn't have been the best baptism for them in relation to Cillian (Ó Curraoin), Liam Ó Conghaile, Jack McCabe, Patrick Egan - a few of these lads coming on. You'd have preferred to integrate them in with Damien Comer, Shane Walsh, and Cillian McDaid so they'd get a better experience. They were thrown in at the deep end.

“In fairness, they were phenomenal, because of those lads we are still in Division One. It is a great achievement considering we had eight or nine so called first team players missing. It was tough and it was a struggle, we have come out the other end, hopefully.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel in relation to Seán (Kelly), we have Liam Silke back. Then, hopefully the four or five other lads will be back as the weeks move on.”

Trying to adequately deal with the situation was demanding, but the Galway management wanted to remain positive in trying circumstances. “We obviously didn't want to concentrate on the players (missing), Pádraic didn't mention it too many times,” Concannon says.

“I know he was asked about it, but he tried to play it down a lot. Although it was a concern for us with all of the big games. I know we lost the league games at home, but to go away to Tyrone and Monaghan, even get a draw in a game we should have won, we think, in the Hyde. It was brilliant with the players and personnel we had.

“Not that they are poor players or anything, just the lack of experience, more than anything else. We feel it was a great achievement to stay in Division One.

“It was our aim, especially after the defeat the first day against Mayo. Our aim was to stay in Division One after that, we are delighted we did.”

Galway selector John Concannon and manager Pádraic Joyce. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Galway selector John Concannon and manager Pádraic Joyce. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

With players gradually returning to fitness, Concannon is adamant that a fully stocked Galway panel can compete at the highest level.“ We think so,” Concannon says.

“We have more or less the nucleus of that team that got so close to winning in 2022. We feel we have progressed. The biggest thing everybody said after the '22 final, was that we didn't have the strength in depth on the bench.

“We sort of thought we worked on that last year until against Armagh. Seán got injured, Damien was injured. Then the Mayo thing, Seán was injured, Damien was injured again, Cillian was injured.

“If we get our top 26 players back, we definitely feel we have the potential to win the All-Ireland.”

Busy preparing for Saturday’s Connacht SFC opener against London at McGovern Park, Ruislip, Concannon acknowledges the players currently unavailable. “At the moment we just have to carry as many players as we can because of the number of injuries,” Concannon says.

“We have a lot of squad injuries, Paul Kelly, Seán and Eoghan's brother, he is a massive loss for us all through the league.

“He is such a versatile and consistent player, the likes of him, Billy Mannion, and Patrick Kelly, who nobody ever mentions. All of these players are an integral part of the squad are missing. At the moment we can't cut it down, but in the next few weeks we will have to.”

Mountbellew-Moylough forward Patrick Kelly netted goals in Galway’s 2022 Connacht Championship wins over Leitrim and Roscommon, but has been unfortunate with injuries since then. “It is all from his back, it is still at him,” Concannon says.

“He is in the middle of a rehab programme, he has seen all the specialists. He isn't improving at the moment. Hopefully as the weeks go on, something might turn in that regard, but at the moment, he isn't available to us.”

Galway will treat the London challenge with the utmost respect according to Concannon. “They have improved significantly, the London team now is so consistent as regards the personnel they have,” he responds.

“In the last couple of years their league results have been better than they have been in previous years. They beat a Mayo team in the Dome with two or three experienced Mayo players and a lot of squad members. We definitely won't be taking them for granted.”

Saturday, April 6

Connacht SFC quarter-final

London v Galway, McGovern Park, Ruislip, 3pm