Kevin Walsh eager to develop talent
By Cian O'Connell
Since becoming Galway manager Kevin Walsh has frequently referred to the ‘end of year accounts’ as being crucial identifying issues needing to be addressed.
One area, though, Walsh has shown a willingness to develop, though, is integrating emerging talent into the Galway set-up.
That was particularly evident in 2016 when Galway’s Championship opener against Mayo featured five debutants, while this year at the same venue a string of last year’s Connacht Under 21 winning team were introduced.
Walsh acknowledges that it is satisfying to see so many footballers adapt at the highest level. “It is pleasing,” Walsh admits.
“When we went down to Castlebar in 2016 we had five debutants and if it didn't work out you'd be hung, drawn, and quartered. At the same time you have to do what you believe is right, pick people on form regardless of age if they are showing all the qualities you have to believe in what you do.
“Also let the players see that you believe in them. The average age of the team last Sunday week was something under 24, that is quite young. We had three or four debuts last year and we had another five in Castlebar and one again last week. There is debuts coming and people are starting.
“We are trying to develop a panel. We had something like five injuries last week (against Sligo) and there was nobody asking about them.
"That is a good sign in relation to the depth of the panel, but it is up to the lads now to keep pushing it out to go as far as we can.”
Walsh is encouraged by how Galway have progressed in 2018 reaching the Allianz Football League Final, while also defeating Mayo out west for the third year on the spin.
“The League is going back a while, but it was a huge part of our focus was to stay in Division One after getting up,” Walsh states. “That worked out okay. Obviously then we parked it very quickly because for the third year in a row Mayo were up in a few weeks.
“So it was hell for leather all the way, huge challenges. Then Sligo came and it was the first team outside of Division One that I've had to play Championship against in Connacht in four years.
“That is a major stat for a small province, that is a challenge in itself. The key is consistency and on the day things worked out. Straight away after that it is only two weeks until Roscommon from that game.”
Walsh, an All Ireland winner in 1998 and 2001 with Galway, also spoke about the team attaining a good level of consistency in recent years. “Yeah, the way it is now unless you win the All Ireland you aren't consistent,” Walsh states through a smile.
“Last year was quite consistent, but we certainly wouldn't have been happy with our Connacht final performance. The aggression levels and intensity wasn't as high as we would have liked against Kerry, but other than that it was a consistent year.
“We beat Donegal in Markievicz Park, Mayo, we got to the final of Division Two. Overall in the end of year accounts would have shown a plus for us, but because of Galway tradition you get hit for one or two below par performances. It is to get as consistent as we can.
“For a traditional county unless you win the whole lot the end of year you will pick on one, focus on one. People can be negative towards one performance.”