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That defeat to Tipperary, Kevin Walsh's role and positives from 2016

Gary O’Donnell and Galway lifted the Connacht title before the season ended with defeat to the Premier County.

GALWAY HEAD INTO 2017 as the reigning Connacht champions, but the enduring memory for the Tribesmen is their quarter-final collapse to Tipperary.

Tipperary stunned Kevin Walsh’s side in the last eight clash at Croke Park, running out nine-point winners to make the semi-finals for the first time since 1935.

Gary O’Donnell with Jimmy Feehan Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

For Galway, much of their good work earlier on in the championship was undone and the year ended on a sour note.

They defeated Mayo and, after a replay, Roscommon before going down to underdogs Tipp. They haven’t won a game at Croke Park since their All-Ireland final win in 2001.

Centre-back Gary O’Donnell is still trying to put his finger on what went wrong.

“We haven’t had a huge opportunity to look through it,” he said. “But obviously there was huge dissapointment, heads were very much down. Not that we took the game for granted but just the way we performed on the day, I thought we were very flat.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes, things were going to plan and we were comfortable enough. I think we had four points on the board to one, and I just think we found it very difficult to get through the gears.

“Once the intensity of the game went up we needed to push through the gears but there was nothing really there.

He continued: “It’s funny, it was the only game we lost in championship all year and then when it’s over, it’s over and lads go their seperate ways.

“I just think we probably put a lot of effort and time into the Connacht championship and the fact it went to a replay as well. It was probably a huge sense of relief and [we were] just very flat on the day [against Tipp].

“It definitely puts a bit of perspective and motivation and hunger in for next year. So we have it all to prove again.”

Connacht GAA Chairman Mick Rock and Galway's Gary O'Donnell make The Sunday Game Championship Draw Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Still, perspective is important here. Galway ended Mayo’s reign in Connacht, having spent much of the last decade under the Westerners’ thumb. Kevin Walsh is on-board as boss for another three-year term, with a young squad at his disposal.

“Even though a few weeks after the Tipperary game it was all dissapointment, on reflection you’d have to take a lot of positives out of the year.

“If you were given a Connacht championship in January you’d obviously have taken it with both hands so, we’re going into 2017 defending the Connacht championship, which is very encouraging.

“A lot of the work and improvements we’ve made over the years has been down to Kevin and the management. The fact he got another three-year term is brilliant for us that he can bring forward and hopefully bring a bit of consistency to our performances as well.”

Galway will play the winners of Sligo and Mayo in the last four of the province. A first Connacht two-in-a-row since 2003 is a realistic ambition, although they’ll likely face a Mayo side determined to restore their dominance.

“We’ve on the other side of it before, where we’ve had a run of games. There’s pros and cons to it. I suppose there will be a big gap between league and championship but it was something similar this year as well.

“It will probably give us a chance to get our house in order after the league depending on how that ends. And we’ll look forward to that game whoever it’s against.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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