Hanley encouraged by Galway's steady progress
By Cian O'Connell
Finian Hanley believes the upcoming Allianz Football League campaign will be an ideal opportunity for Galway to demonstrate that they can become a consistent Division One team.
Hanley, who retired from the inter-county game at the end of the 2017 campaign, believes that progress has been made under Kevin Walsh.
After reaching a first All Ireland Semi-Final since 2001 last year Hanley wants Galway to return to that stage.
"There’s progress, It's a slow process," Hanley, currently managing the NUIG Fresher team, says about Galway's development. "We wouldn’t be making massive leaps every year, but we're making steady progress year in and year out.
"It probably finished on a dampener. Not Dublin, because Dublin are a good bit ahead of Galway at the minute, but Monaghan was disappointing. I thought it was made for our lads to really, really show for a team that was previously known as inconsistent - win a game, then lose a game. That was a game to really show where we're at, but to get clipped like that at home was a dampener going into the Dublin game.
"Whether you say we tried or we didn't try, of course we tried, we had the team out to try. But I think the League was good. Obviously, it’s first year in Division One, it's a free pass because if you lose well that's where you’re at. If you win, it's a bit of novelty factor and I always thought when you’re up there it's a bit of a novelty factor. You can be going to Kerry and going to places like that and you can really up your game.
"This year is a lot more pressure, second season. Roscommon and other teams have found that tough. I think our lads will find it tougher, but it'll be a right good gauge of where our boys are at. It'll be fantastic for the players and you'd think for the next couple of years we'll definitely be up with maybe not Dublin, but we'll be up with the Kerrys and matching them year in, year out so I think this is a big year for Galway and Kevin, just to really show we're a consistent team.
"He'll be well aware of that as well. We should make a Connacht final which is great, obviously Mayo will be coming back. I think another semi-final appearance, at least, would show huge progress. All in all, it was a good year to get to a League final, these are good tests because he can now say looking back that we did that and we did that so why can't we do it again. "It would be great to get to a semi-final again, without putting too much pressure on the boys. We’ve been in enough quarter-finals."
Hanley acknowledges that Galway, who host Cavan at Pearse Stadium on Sunday, face a tough schedule with four away games in 2019.
"Big time," Hanley says. "I think Kerry will improve a lot. They’re cutting their cloth, looks like they're really investing in the young guys. They’ve got good players as well.
"We've lost one or two. I think we're a little bit more along the line. Shane Walsh is older, Damen Comer is older. They're 24 or 25. Fiontán O Curraoin and the boys are 26 or 27. Gary O’Donnell and Gareth Bradshaw are still there as well.
"What it is it's a tough League this year so I think you'll have more of a gauge, if we can have a really good League we can really be seen as a top four team, whereas now there's probably five teams behind Dublin and on any day, anyone can beat anyone at the minute. So, someone needs to separate themselves. It's a good opportunity for our boys."