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'We are no longer a young team': Comer calls on Galway to step up in 2017

Securing promotion to Division 1 is first on the agenda for the Tribesmen.

WITH 2016 FIRMLY in the rear-view mirror, Damien Comer and his Galway teammates can finally put that defeat to Tipperary behind them.

Damien Comer Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Tribesmen suffered a shock upset to the Premier in the All-Ireland quarter-final last August, but this weekend offers a welcome chance to shake off the cobwebs and move on.

Galway take on Sligo in their 2017 season opener in the Connacht senior football league on Sunday. Comer believes Kevin Walsh’s team are a maturing outfit, but they must learn from past “mistakes” if they are to show tangible progress this year.

Galway finished a place outside the promotion spots in Division 2, and Comer feels securing top flight status is pivotal in the coming league campaign.

“I think now at this stage we are developing team, we are no longer a young team,” he said last month. “I think the younger lads have now pushed on.

“We are into our early and mid-20s and then there are some lads in later 20s. I think it is important to get up to Division 1 – it would be nice because that’s where the challenges are at.

“There are good teams in Division 2 but to get up there it would be nice to be playing Dublin, Mayo, Kerry, Donegal and Tyrone. Playing them type of teams in high calibre games is what you want.

“Personally, I’d like to be up playing Division 1 next season but we have Cork in the first game so it’s not going to be an easy start. We have to take it game by game and try to get a bit of consistency into our performances and build on last year’s performances and hopefully get to Division 1 status.”

A first Connacht title in 2008 was a welcome achievement in Walsh’s second year in charge, but the last eight loss to Tipp left a sour taste in the mouths.

“(Beating Mayo) has been hanging over us the last five years. To go out and beat them in the Connacht championship, that was one of the major aims from the start of the year.

“Then to see them go on and progress the way they did, they built momentum nicely. I think you can learn a lot from that. Even Tipp, they are a good side and they put it up to Mayo in the semi-final as well. That would give you huge encouragement going forward.

“If you look back and said at the start of the year that we were going to end the year with a Connacht title, you’d have taken it at the start.

“Everyone says it was a disappointing end and obviously it was, but to have a Connacht medal at the end of it, it’s hard to let that downer affect it.

“I think we are happy with the Connacht title but we are disappointed with the way it finished. That’s the way we’d sum it up.”

Walsh has bolstered his attacking unit for the coming season, with Michèal Lundy and Sean Armstrong returning to the fold.

Lundy, along with a number of his Corofin clubmates, will be tied up with club action until at least February, while veteran forward Armstrong was recalled after a stellar club campaign with Salthill Knocknacarra.

But Comer feels it’s vital Galway obey Walsh’s gameplan in order to avoid another systems failure like the one they experienced against Liam Kearns’s side.

“It’s a building mentality,” he added. “If we can get that consistency into our performances and build. We have got systems in place.

“It is just a matter of sticking to that. I think going back to the Tipperary game we probably came away from that a small bit and that’s what nearly affected our whole performance.

“Against Mayo and Roscommon we stuck to the system religiously and it worked so well, so coming away from it was I suppose a bit naive on our behalf. If we can build on that again going into our third year.

“We played Tyrone in the league, a wet day in Pearse Stadium. We went down to 14 men that day. And we came back at them and ended up losing out narrowly. Tyrone showed what they can do in the championship as well.

“Systems, you are not going to perfect overnight. It takes a while. For the new lads to come in, once they get used to Kevin’s way of playing and get to know the rest of the lads and how we play together, it will be hopefully an enjoyable year.

“We are not that far away. We know we have things to work on and obviously that’s going to be a target for this year. Just learn from our mistakes and build on our strengths from last year and see where it brings us.

“Hopefully it will bring us further than the (All-Ireland) quarter-final.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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