Galway and Annaghdown footballer Eoghan Kerin helped launch the extension of the AIB sponsorship with the GAA this week.

Galway and Annaghdown footballer Eoghan Kerin helped launch the extension of the AIB sponsorship with the GAA this week.

Eoghan Kerin thrilled to be part of the Tribe

By Cian O’Connell

Eoghan Kerin wanted one thing: a chance. That is all Kerin craved, an opportunity to examine himself in the Galway senior set-up.

Over the winter of 2015/16 Kerin was asked into the Galway panel, no guarantees made, just an invitation to see how the youngster and some others would fare.

That January Galway embraced the FBD League with particular intent, Kevin Walsh was keen for the panel to develop, to see what could be achieved.

For Kerin the timing was perfect. Within months Kerin was part of Galway’s first Connacht title success since 2008. Suddenly the maroon team were acquiring momentum.

Walsh hasn’t been afraid to integrate new players, that is something not forgotten by Kerin, who has emerged as influential figure Corribside.

“Yeah, in my first year there were five debutants in MacHale Park, even last year there was another two, if not three and then this year a lot of people forget there were four debutants in that team that played Mayo and Sean Kelly came on as well,” Kerin remarks about Walsh’s willingness to search for fresh talent.

“If you prove yourself in an FBD game or in the National League he will throw you in to give you your shot in the Championship.

“I'm grateful enough because I wouldn't have been a lad perceived to have a big inter county career when I was younger. I was probably an average enough player, but he gave me a shot coming out of Under 21s and I haven't really looked back.”

Valuable lessons have been learned by Kerin. “This is my third year on the panel. In my last year at 21s I probably would have been an average enough player, but he brought in me and maybe eight or nine others to give us a shot,” Kerin recalls.

“Obviously coming in from a 21s or a club setting to an inter-county one there is so much more in terms of strength and conditioning, so much more in terms of analysis. A lot of things are being thrown at you, but there is just a completely different atmosphere. We have run with it.”

That three fellow Annaghdown clubmen – captain Damien Comer, Ciaran Duggan, and Frankie Burke are involved in Galway’s Championship panel in 2018 merely adds to the sense of satisfaction.

Alan Flynn, who is involved in the Clare senior coaching team, trains Annaghdown and is someone with whom Kerin has forged a good relationship.

In 2017 Annaghdown came close to causing a surprise nearly beating Corofin, who subsequently captured Galway, provincial, and national honours.

“Damien and I were in the last couple of years, but we had a decent run with the club last year,” Kerin says. “Corofin pipped us in the semi-final, we probably should have got over the line, but they went on to bigger and brighter things.

“It was from that club run you saw the likes of Ciaran Duggan coming in. He is 27 years of age, he finally got his chance even though he has been plugging away with the club for years. Kevin finally gave him his chance.

"Then you have Frankie, and Frankie is a funny one because he made his Galway debut in 2007, he didn't get a chance again with Galway until this year - a 10 year break, a sabbatical for himself.

"He went back training inter-county, it is great. He is 30-31 years of age and is getting his chance again.

“Even now any club player in Galway when you see the likes of Frankie Burke getting their chance it really is a case if you can perform well in the Club Championship Kevin will bring you in to give you a shot.”

Respect has been earned by Galway once more. A satisfactory campaign in Division One of the Allianz Football League added to the belief and confidence levels.

Five years ago Mayo blitzed Galway by 4-16 to 0-11 at Pearse Stadium and Kerin recounts watching that demoralising day in Salthill unfold. “Yeah, that is the one that stands out,” Kerin remembers.

“That shouldn't be happening because there is an intense rivalry there and there is never a couple of points either side. So for Galway to go out that day was disappointing, I was looking on from the stand.

“Thankfully enough we have turned it on its head, but we put it into perspective. We have beaten Mayo in the last couple of years, but they have gone on to contest All Ireland finals and they have been in a position to be within a kick of the ball of winning it.

“As much as we'd like to think we are gradually getting better we still need to prove ourselves at the back end of a season, not just rate our year on beating the locals rivals.”

The mission now for Kerin and Galway is ultimately to make a lasting summer impression during the current campaign.

Kerin feels there has been a cultural shift in Galway, who are now better equipped to deal with the challenges in the modern game.

“When you see a guy like Kevin come in, he has been there, he has done that, he won two All Irelands and a few All Stars,” Kerin states.

“He is a lad that obviously you respect as soon as he comes in the door- anything he says, because he has been there, done that. When he came in it was just about embedding that little bit of in the sense that everyone in the squad now takes accountability.

“Kevin likes to put the focus on the players, as in it should be player driven. It shouldn't have to come from five or six on the management team trying to drive it into you day in, day out.

"That has to come to a stage where the players are leading it out. The likes of Damo this year has relished the captain tag, he has really led by example.

"Straightaway once Kevin came in Galway became competitive against Mayo in his first year and gone on from there. Hopefully we have shown steady progress that we can build on.”