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'I don't know how we get stick when other teams don't': Comer questions Galway's defensive tag

The full-forward was named PwC Player of the Month for April.

MAYO LOST ALL-Ireland finals in 1996 and 1997, before they had to watch as neighbours Galway went on to lift the Sam Maguire in 1998.

Michael Donnellan 27/9/1998

20 years later, could history be about to repeat itself? Mayo have been defeated in each of the last two All-Ireland deciders and this season the Tribesmen have emerged as genuine contenders for the big prize once again.

They pushed Dublin hard in the Division 1 league final, losing out by four points after a spirited display.

With four members of the All-Ireland club winning Corofin contingent coming in to boost Kevin Walsh’s squad, they’ll be keen to progress to the All-Ireland semi-finals at the very least this summer.

Full-forward Damien Comer was only a youngster when Galway lifted All-Ireland crowns in 1998 and 2001, but they’re still etched into his memory.

“They were fond memories, I remember the homecomings and everything,” he says.

“It was great craic going down to Killererin for the homecomings and being out at the head of the road lighting bonfires. Coming into the Galway set-up when I was only 19 or 20, you always envisage that you want to take it back to those days and that’s the aim.

Galway fans at a bonfire 28/9/1998

“Now we’re consistently progressing towards that and who knows at the end of the year it could be another year like that, all going well. It’s going to take a huge effort from our lads and it’s going to be a massive step towards that but we’ve got to take it game by game.

“We’ve Mayo now first and all eyes are going to be on that. We’ll see how that goes and rebuild from there, wherever it takes us.”

One of the major reasons for Galway’s return as a force has been Comer’s irresistible form in the attack. He bagged three points against Dublin in Croke Park, including this stunning effort off his right:


His low centre of gravity, hulking physique, speed off the mark and score-taking ability makes Comer a formidable opponent for any defence.

Three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions Dublin struggled to handle Comer on the day, with both Johnny Cooper and Philly McMahon fortunate not to be black-carded for hauling him down as he burst through on goal.

Walsh made Comer captain this season at just 24 and he’s revelling in the role.

“I think the captain role has suited me. It’s nearly aided my performances in my games.

Damien Comer

“Every day I go out I’m trying to lead by example and hope that the lads will then follow suit. If they see different leaders stepping up around the pitch, it makes it easier for them.

“I suppose the main thing that’s helping me is staying injury-free,” he added.

“If you can stay injury-free you’re getting a run of good form and not being disrupted by injuries is a key element of it.

“It’s going to be very important to keep the body right because as you go onto the Super 8s this year, hopefully we get there, anyone who gets there is going to need nearly two teams.”

Some pundits have accused Galway of being overly defensive, despite their swift adjustment to life in Division 1.

Comer admits that criticism is somewhat frustrating to hear.

“Yeah, a little. I suppose even the Dubs, and they’re obviously the best team out there at the moment, there were times in that game that they had 14 men behind the ball as well and it’s probably not picked up on.

PwC April POTM Player of the Month event

“I think the speed of their attack when they break down the opposition (is key) and when they go, they go at ferocious speed. They’re very swift through their hand-passing and their kick-passing. Their movement is very good, so it looks like they’re a brilliant attacking team.

“But I think it’s the way the game has gone, there’s no team that’s going to leave only the bare six defenders and maybe one sweeper back. I think it’s gone from that. At the end of the day it’s a system that most teams are playing, so I don’t know how we get stick when other teams don’t.

“What we wanted to do was make sure there are no gaps in the defence. And I think what was good during the league was that we only conceded one soft enough goal – against Monaghan.

“It shows well for the defence that they’re doing a lot right and that’s a credit to the management as well. I suppose it’s just trying to get the balance right between that defence and then transitioning into attack, that’s the main part.

Dean Rock with Eoghan Kerin and Sean Andy O'Ceallaigh

“It doesn’t matter how well you’re defending, you still need to be able to score at the other end. It’s about constantly working on that and I think we’ve got forwards that can cause problems if we can get that transition quick enough. That’ll be the aim.”

The Connacht SFC will explode into life on 13 May when Galway travel to Castlebar to take on their old nemesis Mayo. Things have become heated in recent clashes between the rivals, with red cards and scuffles becoming commonplace.

“There’s no love lost between Galway and Mayo. They often turn out to be really good games. It’s going to be a big one for both teams.

Tempers flare in the closing stages

“A lot of people are talking about Mayo being on a downward slope or whatever, but I think you would be crazy to believe that.

“Mayo have often proved if you write them off that’s when they come back stronger. We know it’s going to be a tough battle, especially down in their home pitch.

“We’ll go down there with every ambition and hope we can get a result.

“They’re a formidable side, there’s no question about it. They’ve some serious players.”


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Kevin O'Brien

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