Walsh's homework on his own county yields good resultsJune 15, 2012 - 7:00am
IT perhaps wasn’t a fair question. Sligo manager Kevin Walsh had just done what none of his predecessors could achieve in 28 previous attempts since 1909 – he had masterminded the Yeats County’s first ever away win on Galway soil in the Connacht senior football championship.
But it had to be asked: Did Kevin Walsh the man, rather than Kevin Walsh the manager, feel in any way torn at having got one over on his native county, the county he served with distinction for over a decade?
“Sure look it, as the man says, I leave home every night from Galway, four nights training a week, to be honest with you this is what I’m doing at the moment. I’ve had four years up there in Sligo. I know a lot of the lads inside in that Galway dressing room there, and obviously you’d have a certain feeling and hoping that they pick themselves up and move on but when someone comes in the way of what I’m doing, I have to do my very best, that’s the way it is,” said the Killanin man.
And boy did he do his best, which was more than good enough to dump the Tribesmen into the qualifiers, with a convincing five points, 2-14 to 0-15 triumph, Sligo’s biggest winning margin over Galway in 37 years.
As Galway manager Alan Mulholland said beforehand, Walsh knows Galway football intimately; and as the Salthill man remarked afterwards, Walsh had his homework done. You’d have to take your hat off to Walsh, he ‘did a number’ on Galway.
What we learned from the demolition of Roscommon in the first round was that Galway’s full-forward line can be explosive; what Sligo taught us on Saturday was shut down the supply of quick, direct ball, and Galway will struggle.
Full-forward Paul Conroy, in fairness, did pose a threat – he was fouled for three of Galway’s converted frees and scored three points from play, which was not quite as sensational as the Roscommon match but a decent return nonetheless. Still, Walsh knew Galway’s full-forwards were lethal if given the space, so Sligo suffocated them – and the maroon and white never got a sniff of a goal over the 70 minutes.
“They had us worked out fairly well and they frustrated us, they bottled us up. They did foul us a lot, we only got two points from play in the first half, and the rest were from frees, so they were working on us.They didn’t want us to build up any momentum; they didn’t want us to get any movements going,” said a dejected Mulholland afterwards.
The ploy worked, and Sligo certainly stopped Galway from playing, particularly in the second half, while turning on the style themselves at the other end after the break, with Adrian Marren in devastating form, scoring 2-6, although you couldn’t but lament the naivety of leaving the full-forward and corner-forward David Kelly isolated inside.
Deploying a wing forward to drop back to act as insurance for the last line of defence that was under serious pressure, might not have been pretty, and perhaps doesn’t fit in with the traditional stylish philosophy of Galway football, but it might have been effective at shutting down what was a rampant Sligo attack.
It was interesting afterwards how the Sligo camp summed up the importance of psychology going into this clash. Galway were raging hot favourites, yet Sligo never feared them, and in their own heads, couldn’t understand the bookies’ odds nor foresee a scenario where they would be beaten. “We had no doubt whatsoever but that we were going to win this game in Salthill,” declared Sligo’s Charlie Harrison in the tunnel on his way to the winning dressing room.
“To be honest we knew we didn’t get things off the ground in the first half. We didn’t start playing and Galway probably thought that is all we had. We knew we had a good second half in us and fair play to Kevin Walsh and his backroom team, I felt as prepared as I have ever been for a Connacht Championship match,” added the wing back.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.