Gary Sice on Galway's leader: 'Pádraic is a very confident individual in his own ability'

Corofin player Sice recalls his memories of playing with the current Galway boss.

FORMER GALWAY FOOTBALLER Gary Sice says the confidence that Pádraic Joyce exudes in his own ability is a cornerstone of the county’s journey to their first All-Ireland final appearance since 2001.

aib-all-ireland-final-launch Former Galway footballer Gary Sice. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Joyce was a player on that occasion, and a star forward of his generation. He clocked up a tally of 0-10 against Meath in that final to help steer Galway to their second triumph in three years. 19 years on from that golden period for Galway, Joyce is back in Croke Park seeking to lift the Sam Maguire for the third time in his life, and his first as team manager.

Sice shared a dressing room with Joyce in the winter of his career, and also served under him during the Covid-delayed season in 2020 after coming out of inter-county retirement. He has a first-person account of how Joyce impresses himself on players and instills belief.

“His skillset was frightening. To watch his balance and thought patterns, and trying to keep up with his thought patterns was the problem because he was steps ahead of us. I was playing wing back at the time so I was trying to give him the ball and believe me, if it wasn’t going in right, you were going to hear about it. I mean that in a good way.

“I learned an awful lot from him. He always gave good advice, was always to the point and there was no fluffing around. Even trying to mark him at club level was a nightmare. He was a monster at club level. It was a pleasure to learn so much from him.

“Pádraic is a very confident individual in his own ability. That comes across in every aspect of what he does. He can do it himself and if you give him a ball and ask what kind of kick-pass he’s talking about, he can do that. He understands where he wants Galway to be and he’s not shy in telling lads where he wants them to be.

“He’s giving a confident message across and backing it up with the information required to get the job done. All of that put together is a very potent mix. He’s one of the all time greats as far as we’re concerned in Galway.”

Joyce took over as manager in October 2019 as the successor to his former Galway teammate Kevin Walsh. Walsh departed the role shortly in somewhat acrimonious circumstances as many perceived his style to be stifling the players, despite delivering two Connacht titles as well as an All-Ireland semi-final appearance during his tenure.

Sice dismisses that narrative, and believes Walsh’s teachings helped form the foundations upon which this current crop was built.

“We were very pragmatic with Kevin and the system we had with him was a very successful one. We had come from an up and down period and he made us very consistent in what was expected of us every day and consistent in producing performances as well. Pádraic made a great start and I can’t overstate how hard Covid was from a logistics point of view, a training point of view, trying to get messages across to a brand new team and young lads coming in.

“The whole thing was a nightmare so the teams that had been there weathered it better than the teams that had a new management in. I could see it in there myself that there was a very clear message coming but trying to get sessions together was impossible. I think what you have there now is a hybrid of two systems and it’s a hybrid system that has worked really well for the lads that are there.

“I think this year the age profile and the clientele available and the fitness of players have all come together. Some players in that panel have struggled for fitness over a period of time through injuries and week on, week off problems. I think they’ve all had a run at it now at the moment.”

The challenge facing the Galway footballers this weekend is a stark one. An in-form Kerry team who progressed to the final on the back of a dramatic one-point victory over Dublin will be the ultimate litmus test for Joyce’s side. All available evidence from the games so far would suggest that Kerry are narrow favourites, but Sice sees frailties in the Kingdom that Galway can expose.

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“Yes, they can win this All-Ireland, absolutely. I think our structure at the moment is the best one for the players available to us and I think we’re very settled in that structure, and that’s probably where our best opportunity is going to come from.

“I think going after the Kerry sweeper situation they have at the minute is going to be a big part of the game. I’m not so sure that they’re comfortable in what they’re doing. They’ve got an understanding of it, but I don’t think they’re fully settled into that structure yet.

“I think it’s a work in progress. Usually when you change to a sweeper system like they have, that doesn’t happen in a season. It needs to be tested, and I don’t think it has been tested. Dublin without Con (O’Callaghan) are one thing, Dublin with Con are a completely different thing and I don’t think that system was tested to its most the last day.

“I don’t think they had the danger behind Tadhg Morley that would have been there if Con was present. So I think that’s an opportunity for Galway with Damien Comer in the form he’s in at the minute. That could bring trouble for Kerry.”

Gary Sice was speaking ahead of the 2022 GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Final. Sice teamed up with AIB to look ahead to one of #TheToughest matches of the year between Galway and Kerry.

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