Damien Comer excited by Galway's potential
By Cian O'Connell
The landscape has changed in the west with Galway and Roscommon relevant once more.
Between 2011 and 2015 Mayo ruled the west, but Galway and Roscommon have shown signs of significant improvement recently. Connacht titles have been landed by Kevin Walsh and Kevin McStay's teams even though Mayo have continued to deliver on the national stage.
Three Connacht outfits will compete in Division One of the Allianz Football League next year and Galway captain Damien Comer acknowledges the strides being made with the western province now a highly competitive environment.
"Definitely," Comer says. "It’s improving big time, and it’s one of the tougher ones really now. I know Ulster is up there as well, but between Connacht and Ulster, it’s a credit to the teams that have brought the standard up and a testament to the development that’s going on in counties. It’s good, and you definitely need it as you go forward."
One of the chief reasons for Galway's progression is the emergence of fresh new talent. "Galway football has always got stick about winning minor and Under 21 All-Irelands and lads aren’t coming through, but I think in the last couple of years, even though there hasn’t been as much success, the lads came through better," Comer remarks.
"Maybe success hinders them or they get ahead of themselves, but even from the Under 21 side that lost to Dublin, there’s a good lot of them involved and there’s some serious talent in it.
"It’s great to add that to the more seasoned campaigners, it means there’s a great blend of experience and freshness in the squad. It’s going well so far and we hope that it will continue."
Having made a satisfactory return to Division One of the Allianz Football League for the first time since 2011, reaching the Final and defeating Mayo for the third year in a row out west a good spirit has been cultivated by Kevin Walsh.
"There’s a great buzz in the camp, everyone gets on with each other," Comer admits. "It’s exciting times for it, you hear the public talking about it, everyone’s gaining an interest in it.
"When you relate back to a couple of years ago, playing League games and there’s only around 400 people at them, it’s changed around dramatically. It’s a great place to be, and everyone’s enjoying it at the moment."
Comer wasn't overly concerned about the negative commentary following Galway's win over Mayo at Elverys MacHale Park last month. "People always will have their comments and opinions after games but I don’t think it really matters," Comer states.
"As a group, if we win by two points to one, and we win a Connacht Final against Roscommon that way, we’re not there to be crowd pleasers, we’re there to win games.
"Obviously it’s not pretty when you’re watching that, but it was a massive victory for Fermanagh against Monaghan, and it wasn’t expected. When we won, not playing as prettily as you’d like, or the game didn’t ebb and flow as people would like, people will criticise it.
"You have to mix the good with the bad and look at your opposition. Some teams you’re going to have to play a certain way against them and that’s the nature of the way the game has gone."
The 2017 Connacht decider loss to Roscommon hurt Galway deeply according to Annaghdown clubman Comer. "We let ourselves down, but you have to give credit to Roscommon as well, I thought Roscommon were very good on the day," Comer adds.
"Sometimes, if a team is below par, the others can wipe them out fairly handily. The year before, in the replay, it was the opposite way around, Roscommon were below par and we played well, and that showed in the result."