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'I think it's very premature of anyone to be comparing Galway with Dublin at the moment'

Galway have won all their games so far in Division 1, but ’98 legend Ray Silke says they still have more strides to take.

THE GALWAY FOOTBALLERS are where few thought they would be at this stage of the Allianz National League.

Damien Comer Galway captain Damien Comer. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

After a seven-year absence in Division 1, they are on a 100% success rate after four games and are keeping All-Ireland champions Dublin company at the summit of the table.

Dublin have the edge of course, due to score difference.

An opening round win against Tyrone featured a Damien Comer goal after just 15 seconds, while reigning Division 1 champions Kerry were unable to curtail Kevin Walsh’s side when they met in Tralee at the end of February.

That result marked Galway’s first victorious trip to Kerry since 2000, and as they look towards facing down Monaghan later this afternoon [TG4 Throw-in, 12.30], their Division 1 status for 2019 is effectively secured.

Their current tally after four games stands at 4-48, while in defense, they have yet to concede a single goal.

1998 All-Ireland winning captain Ray Silke is pleased with how Galway are progressing, but is wary of people falling victim to ‘false dawns’ before facing Dublin later in the month.

“They’re working very hard and getting a lot of bodies behind the ball,” he tells The42. ”That win against Tyrone was very important and then a win against Donegal. You’ve a pep in your step going training.

They haven’t conceded any goals, but when we played Roscommon in the Connacht final we let in two. The bottom line is Galway haven’t won a championship match in Croke Park for a good while.

“Our last big matches in championship, Kerry beat us by eight points comprehensively in Croke Park. And then the other one was against Roscommon [in the Connacht final] 2-15 0-12.

The positives are that Seán Andy O’Ceallaigh has come in from U21, and as a man said to me, we’ve a full-back for the first time in a long time.

“Seán Kelly has come in from the U21s and Peter Cooke. There’s a transition there of three or four guys who have come in and done very well.

Roscommon celebrate after the game in the changing room with the trophy Roscommon footballers celebrating their Connacht SFC final victory last year. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“So nobody in Galway is getting overly excited, but we are very pleased with the progress. If they beat Monaghan this weekend, they’re in a situation where they’re probably [going to be] in a league final with two games to experiment.”

Scoring threats

While Paul Conroy is providing leadership and experience in midfield, the Galway attack is brimming with potential.

Team captain Damien Comer, along with Shane Walsh and Eamonn Brannigan are key players who have developed into leaders on this Galway team, with Brannigan pocketing 1-3 for himself against Kerry.

The St Michael’s man is blessed with pace and his goal in Tralee is a perfect illustration of how he utilises that strength to maximum effect.

After gathering the ball near the halfway line in the second half, he races through the centre channel towards the goal with the ball.

He dances past two defenders to create a one-on-one situation and despite spilling possession, he smacks the ball on the bounce and drills it into the roof of the net.

Comer on the other hand is primarily a forward, but he is a regular sight in the Galway defence.

In the dying seconds of the win over Kerry, the hosts were pressing for a goal to level the tie when the ball was recycled out to the brilliant David Clifford.

He opted to shoot from distance but his effort was saved by goalkeeper Ruairi Lavelle, and after a scramble in the goalmouth, the ball was carried out of danger.

Galway’s defenders resisted the temptation to kick the ball long in the hope of prompting the referee to blow the final whistle, and instead calmly worked it through the hands.

Comer once again was back providing assistance, and helped transfer the ball out of the Galway half before Shane Walsh was released on a counter attack.

Walsh almost came away with a score from the move, but his poorly taken shot under pressure sailed wide.

Source: SportOfView/YouTube

Skip to 6:10 to watch the move.

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“Damien Comer’s workrate has been absolutely phenomenal,” says Silke.

“Some people think that maybe he tires a little bit and it would be better to keep him up the field but on a lot of occasions, they’re playing with two or three up front.

“But we have to do that because experience has taught us that when we go open at the back Kerry beat us, and Roscommon beat us.

“When you’ve the pace of Brannigan, Walsh, even Damien Comer, Seán Kelly and [Johnny] Heaney at wing back in particular. When they turn over the ball, they are able to get down [the field] at high speed, so they’re working well.”

Galway’s form has undoubtedly been impressive up to this point, but the real litmus test still awaits them on 18 March when they welcome Dublin to Pearse Stadium.

Silke argues that Dublin have various advantages over Galway, and points to the loss of Monivea-Abbey’s Cillian McDaid to AFL side Carlton, a setback which a team like Dublin are better equipped to cope with.

And while the senior side are thriving at the minute, he believes that more investment and resources are needed in underage coaching around the county.

But for now, Galway are exceeding expectations in Division 1, when many thought they would struggle to survive.

Looking beyond the league, their Connacht championship meeting against Mayo on 13 Mayo, will be a major target for Kevin Walsh’s side in 2018.

Paul Mannion Paul Mannion of Dublin. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“Dublin are at a slightly different level. They’ve won three All-Irelands in-a-row. Mayo went very close but didn’t beat them, so they’ve been absolutely phenomenal. I think it’s very premature of anyone to be comparing Galway with Dublin at the moment.

“I’m sure Dublin lose players but Cillian McDaid who was a fantastic U21 and who most people would have seen as a definite starter for Galway in the championship this year, he went to Australian Rules.

“Dublin with their playing population, they can absorb a hit like that easier than a county like Galway and they might have three or four more lads knocking around at the same level

While it’s all been hugely positive, and we’re very much looking forward to taking on Monaghan on Sunday, the reality for Galway’s ambition is that they want to get to the Super 8s and they know that 13 May will be the deciding factor there.”

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