Manager Kevin Walsh hopes his team will show its potential against Galway on Saturday
Whatever happens against Galway at Pearse Stadium this Saturday, Sligo, who thankfully have been reborn as a competitive force, will have another game this summer. a Connacht final awaits the victors on Sunday, July 15, and the losers prepare for a second round tie in the qualifiers the day before (Saturday, July 14).
Last year deflated supporters’ expectations – relegation from Division two of the allianz Football League was exacerbated by
losses to Leitrim and Wicklow in the Gaa Football Connacht Senior Championship and all-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifiers respectively.
Indeed, some would argue that the pain of losing the provincial final in 2010 (after beating Mayo and Galway en route to the decider with roscommon) seeped corrosively into the following campaign.
ahead of their trip to Salthill, Sligo have built up a winning streak of four games (three allianz League Division three fixtures and
that quarter-final hammering of New York) and, with attacking dynamo David Kelly not far off a starting role or, at the very least, a role as substitute, the side is returning to what it was in recent years, underdogs with a bite.
Kevin Walsh, in his fourth Connacht campaign as Sligo’s Senior team manager, believes that the ingredients are there for Sligo
to give this major tie a concerted lash.
“the team is in as a good place as we could possibly hope for in that at the start of the year we hoped we would make a strong finish to the allianz Football League ahead of getting into the Connacht campaign and that is what happened.”
“the mood is good in the camp and we used a lot more fellas in the allianz Football League than we did last year and these fellas have got game time. they’ve done well and added a bit of spice to the starting 15,” said Walsh, with the Geevagh players, Pat hughes and Shane McManus, terrific examples of players who’ve worked diligently to grab an opportunity at inter-county level.
Nifty forward Stephen Coen, who top-scored against New York, offers a new outlet alongside the reliable adrian Marren, who has become Sligo’s attacking cornerstone, while the likes of Francis Quinn, David Maye, Colm McGee and Johnny Martyn are in contention for starting roles in attack.
Eugene Mullen, an unsung ball winner at midfield, is another who has returned from injury to boost Walsh’s options in the engine-room and there has been a revival in form from Mullen’s easkey club-mate, Noel McGuire, who captained Sligo in their Connacht final defeat of Galway five years ago.
there are other key, experienced contributors throughout the side such as ross Donovan, Johnny Davey, Brendan egan, alan
Costello and Mark Breheny.
While niggling injuries have hampered important players tony taylor, a classy midfielder, and Charlie harrison, the sterling
corner-back, both should be fit to feature, with tourlestrane defender Brian Kennedy also back in training following a setback.
On the negative side, Keelan Cawley suffered a hamstring strain last week, making him a doubt, and veteran eamonn O’hara is
struggling to recover from a knock sustained in training prior to last month’s landslide toppling of New York.
Walsh was impressed by his native county’s dismantling of roscommon at hyde Park.
“People on the street will say Roscommon were poor on the day and that Galway were good but I know roscommon will be disappointed at how they played. this doesn’t take away from the fact that Galway were good.”
The Sligo manager also noted Galway’s progress in this year’s allianz Football League – three wins and two draws in Division
two, results that saw them finish third, just a point off second-placed Kildare.
“Galway are going well but I’m not trying to build them up or knock them down. But we feel that we are also going well. all that we can control is our side.”
“Look at 2010, we didn’t win the Connacht final but we came through big games to get there. there is no reason why this group of players can’t have more than one good game every year. they know that themselves.”
“But there is no doubt about it, we have an awful big task ahead of us. how good are Galway? We don’t know. But the main thing is that we turn up and give a performance that we are capable of doing.”
“If we play to our potential, as a group, we won’t be far off any team in the country. Galway won’t be taking Sligo for granted. It is
a massive game. We have to do our best and that is where it stops,” he added.