Integrating emerging talent key for Galway
By Cian O'Connell
Integrating emerging talent into the Galway senior set-up is critical for Kevin Walsh.
Since taking charge in 2015 Walsh has shown a willingness and ability to introduce new talent into the Galway panel.
A severe injury list in 2019 meant Galway were under some duress, but Walsh is adamant about how vital it is to continue bringing through players.
"I think its awfully important," Walsh admits. "Okay, we got five or six debuts again this year but the last four years something like, not an exact figure, but its certainly in the high 20s, which is a lot.
"Maybe wed average five or six per year. We always have an open door policy and thats the way we want to have it. We dont see us firing out stuff that a man is gone off the panel or if someone has come in. If theyre playing well theyll come in regardless of what club or what area or what level youre playing at."
Ensuring Galway remain relevant, though, is also crucial according to Walsh, who is encouraged by the recent progress.
"If someone is showing well enough you try to give them the chance," Walsh adds. "I think two things I have always said is to make Galway more competitive and leave it in a better place.
"If I want to leave this in a better place I have got to have it that if we have a year like we had this year then there is people there to step in.In times gone by, if we had been missing this years injury list, would we have been able to sustain it? The question is out there, but probably not."
Galway manager Kevin Walsh.
That the youngsters are being afforded opportunities in Division One of the Allianz Football League merely increases the sense of satisfaction.
"We adapted very well," Walsh states about the 2019 challenges. "And for the Championship it has been great that they had that experience. "Particularly with the injuries. its important to leave a deep panel there as well. I think that if you have injuries or you have sicknesses or you have whatever it is.
"We played New York four years ago and we got some some kind of food poisoning, there was six guys out overnight. You just have to have a panel where lads can step in."
Walsh has been impressed with how Anthony Cunningham has worked with Roscommon so far. "Id know Anthony going back over for a long time," Walsh remarks. "I know how committed a person Anthony is.
"Look, for any man thats been taking clubs to where he took them, and taking hurling and football to where he takes it, he obviously knows sport inside out.
"He is a very passionate man and he certainly, its one thing, he wont be having it if someone turns out with a wrong frame of mind. Ill put it that way to you. He is obviously getting the best out of his players he has done in the past.
"I hugely respect what he does and he is just passionate about sport. Well meet on the sideline, well shake hands before and shake hands afterwards. Whatever happens well have to move on and deal with it."
Was Walsh surprised by Roscommon's triumph over Mayo at Elverys MacHale Park? "I would have felt from day one that this is an open a Connacht Championship," Walsh remarks.
Anthony Cunningham and Kevin Walsh shake hands following Galway's Allianz Football League win over Roscommon at Pearse Stadium in March.
"Okay you can look out there and there is stuff being said about different provinces, but this is as hard as any province to win.
"There is three Division One sides there and any one of them can beat the other. Was it a surprise? From outside people would say it was.
"Roscommon were playing the best team in Ireland at the time - ranked number one. We knew at the time wed be playing the number one team in the country or that team that beat the number one team in the country. Thats who were playing.
"It wouldnt have been a major surprise, they were obviously outsiders, but anyone can beat anybody on a given day."
Walsh accepts it would be hugely significant for Galway to claim a third provincial title on four years by beating Roscommon. "If we get over the line, absolutely," Walsh responds.
"In particular with a province that now has three Division One sides. Go back five, six years ago. There was Mayo, the only Division One side for a number of years.
"That has changed, but it makes the province very, very competitive. I suppose every time you play one of those games you can learn something from it, which is a good place to be.
"Look, the Pearse Stadium thing, we have done reasonably well there overall in the last while so we'd be hoping that we can continue that next Sunday."