Kevin Walsh satisfied with Galway's win
By Cian O'Connell
Throughout his tenure as Galway manager Kevin Walsh has afforded emerging talent an opportunity to shine so there was no disguising the sense of satisfaction at Tuam Stadium on Sunday.
Barry McHugh's last gasp time goal forced a penalty shootout in which An Spideal's Maghnus Breathnach emerged as the hero making two stops to ensure Galway will face Roscommon in the final of the competition for the fifth year in a row.
"It is early season, our first time out, we had one or two challenges, but it is great to get out to get a chance to play in front of a crowd like that," Walsh reflected.
"Particularly lads making debuts and stuff, I don't know how many thousand were there, but Tuam was buzzing, it is certainly a great place to be compared to maybe four years ago when you had 100 people at a match. It is great to see the supporters of both sides. The lads served up a really good game.
"A lot of mishandling, a lot of poor handling, poor kicking in the first half, in particular. It improved in the second half, obvoiusly our conversion rate was quite poor in the second half, but we got over the line."
Walsh praised Breathnach's contribution with the Galway custodian also busy preparing for an All Ireland Club Intermediate Semi-Final with An Spideal next weekend. "Yeah, we totally left it up to Maghnus and the two O'Laoi guys over the past number of weeks whether they wanted to play or not," Walsh stated.
"There is only six days to go, Maghnus said he just wanted to play. That was it, the two O'Laoi's were the same way. They got two little injuries so we wanted to protect those guys, there was no pressure on either side. For Maghnus ending up saving two penalties there was experience in that, he got his just rewards for his dedication."
The match also marked Galway's sixth successive victory in all competitions against rivals Mayo. "Any time you play Mayo it's nice to win, but at the same time the big thing for me would be the crowd," Walsh stated.
"It could be up on 7,000. When we took over four years ago you might have 40 on each sideline so it's a massive crowd to get for this, but it's also a sign that both teams are up there challenging which is good for Connacht football.
"It's strong at the minute. If you go back a few years ago there wasn't too many teams in Division One, not as difficult as it is now."
Walsh also confirmed that Eamonn Brannigan, Paul Conroy, and Adrian Varley will miss the majority of the Allianz Football League, while Damien Comer is a doubt with an ankle injury for the opener against Cavan on January 27.
The return of Cillian McDaid to the maroon and white is a source of optimism. "We have to keep a lid on it as well because Cillian is only back, ring-rusty at the minute, but a superb athlete, great attitude," Walsh remarked.
"Michael Daly had a poor year with injury last year, great to see him back he has worked hard, we've also lost people, Sean Armstrong, the Sweeneys taking time out, Adrian Varley did his shoulder, Eamonn Brannigan is just out of a boot, he'll miss the league, Paul Conroy broken leg, hopefully back in March, there's a lot going on on that side."