Padraic Joyce encouraged about Galway's potential
By Cian O'Connell
In the west, as optimism increases and momentum continues to be generated, Galway are beginning to feel good about themselves again.
Still Pádraic Joyce is sufficiently aware to know that the remaining two rounds of the Allianz Football League carry significance.
Mayo and Dublin both visit Pearse Stadium in the coming weeks so further demanding matches beckon.
Killererin clubman Joyce is looking forward to seeing how the maroon and white outfit copes.
"While things are going well, you get pats on the back, but as Babs Keating famously said you are only two inches from a kick in the backside if things go wrong," Joyce says.
"There will be bumps along the way, but definitely you can see players’ fitness levels and the teams we are playing against the fitness levels and strength and conditioning, they are getting stronger and stronger as the League goes on.
"We have Mayo and Dublin left. They have been the two best teams in the country for the last 10 years. So we are under no illusions.
"While some of them are around a while, we are still relatively a transitional sort of a team. This is a huge test for us to see where we are at over the next two weeks."
It is one Joyce's Galway will embrace as an emerging crop of footballers are being blended alongside established faces.
Sean Ó Maoilchiarain, Cein D'Arcy, Rob Finnerty, Matthias Ó Baireid, Liam Costello, Conor Campbell, Dessie Conneely have sampled action in the League. Goalkeeper Connor Gleeson and Corofin's accomplished midfielder Ronan Steede are others contributing handsomely.
Joyce's intention is to broaden the depth of Galway's panel. "It is, I was involved with the 20s last year," Joyce replies.
"It is something - because I saw a lot of good football in them. We wanted to bring them in because if they went back to their clubs, no disrespect to their clubs, they wouldn't get the same level of training and intensity. They wouldn't develop as much.
"So when they are hopping off the likes of Damien (Comer) and these lads here at training they realise the physical strength they need to be at. They are able to do their own thing away from training getting stronger and fitter.
"Once they see the level to be at they work harder. When they get a small taste of it, as some of them have got in a couple of the League matches, they are chomping at the bit to get back in. They add a bit to training, they are pushing on players at training so it is great."
Balancing work, rest, and family, and football can be tough. So last weekend Galway had no game and Joyce opted for a few days rest.
"We just took the weekend off," Joyce explains. "You have to be fair to the lads, they have personal lives to live, family life some of them to look after. It is very hard.
"Even travelling to matches, training, getting excited about matches. You are constantly thinking. You are using a lot of mental energy, getting psyched up for games. We trained last week.
"We didn't do much on Tuesday night, a bit of gym work and we trained hard then on Friday night. The lads had the weekend off, we will train again on Tuesday night so hopefully there will be a bit of freshness around that.
"You can't keep flogging them all the time. Hopefully we will have three Sundays in a row now."
With four victories from five matches, reaching a League Final is Galway's objective now, but Joyce expects tough tussles in the remaining fixtures.
"We need two more points, minimum, to try to get to a League Final, to keep the push going," Joyce admits. "We have won four out of five so far, we are trying to get to a League Final, to win it. We have two games left; Mayo is the next one, it is a huge game for us in Galway.
"It is a big game for Mayo as well, if they lose it they are looking at Division Two in the face. They are going to come all guns blazing so we have to be fully ready for it."