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'There'll definitely be a good bite to it' - Injured Conroy relishing Mayo-Galway showdown

The star Green and Red forward is looking forward to a ‘big derby’ with ‘a lot at stake’.

Tommy Conroy facing Galway in last year's Connacht final.
Tommy Conroy facing Galway in last year's Connacht final.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

THIS IS A tough week for Tommy Conroy, but certainly not the toughest since he tore his cruciate in February.

After a challenging period of acceptance and coming to terms with his cruel fate, the Mayo star is “okay” with the fact that he’s amidst a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

But that doesn’t make missing big games any easier. He has already been forced to watch NUI Galway’s Sigerson Cup final triumph and Mayo’s Division 1 league decider defeat from afar, and the Green and Red’s mouth-watering Connacht championship quarter-final showdown against Galway tomorrow is up next [throw-in 4pm, live on RTE 2].

“Very difficult,” the 22-year-old forward, eight weeks post-surgery, says of missing these key fixtures.

“There are moments in the games where you’re watching, and you really want to contribute, and really want to be involved. It’s definitely difficult, and I still find it difficult to watch. I wouldn’t be the best onlooker. The first few games, I didn’t really enjoy even going to them. I didn’t go to all the National League games.

I’ve become a bit more positive at this stage, and have come to terms with it a bit better. Big game on Sunday, back in MacHale Park, full crowd — that won’t be the easiest thing. I’m still there for my team-mates. I’ll be wishing them well.”

The Neale clubman caused Galway serious problems in their provincial meeting last summer, scoring 0-3 in the Croke Park final and really stepping up alongside Ryan O’Donoghue in the absence of Cillian O’Connor.

This time around, Conroy is the absent party, and with talismanic O’Connor currently down to start, he notes: “We definitely have lots of depth up front that’ll do the damage.”

Like the question marks hanging over O’Connor’s involvement through the build-up, uncertainty reigns over Rob Hennelly and Paddy Durcan, among others. Both missed last month’s league final defeat to Kerry, but earlier in the week Conroy was hopeful for their respective returns. (Neither are in the matchday 26, though changes may follow.)

Reflecting on last year’s Connacht decider meeting at HQ, speed merchant Conroy remembers a real game of two halves. A flat first-period display saw them trail by five points at the break, before they outscored the Tribe by 2-8 to 0-3 in the second-half.

“We didn’t play well in the first half, weren’t really bringing the intensity that we would have liked. Just told to turn that around in the spell we had at the beginning of the second half. In terms of Sunday, we’ll probably be looking to bring that from the off and not having to wait until half time to turn on the gas.”

Screenshot 2022-04-21 08.48.35 Conroy at the 2022 Kellogg’s GAA Cúl Camps launch. Source: SPORTSFILE.

“There’s always a bite,” he adds. “It’s a big derby. There’s a lot at stake. The loser goes into the qualifiers, I suppose. That probably adds to the intensity involved. There’ll definitely be a good bite to it. Looking forward to it.”

Albeit as a spectator, Conroy is also relishing a return to MacHale Park.

James Horan’s side played all of their home league games at neutral Connacht venues, as resurfacing works have been carried out at the Castlebar grounds since last summer.

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“I was actually down there a few times in the last couple of weeks, it’s looking great,” Conroy assures. “Phil, the groundsman down there, has been doing great work to get it ready for the 24th.

“It’s been so long now since there’s been a big championship game with full capacity in MacHale Park, so really looking forward to seeing it.

“I don’t think [Mayo not playing there in the league] will have too much of an effect. At the end of the day really, once the game starts, it’s still the same boundary and the same goalposts. It will definitely be great to be back there anyways.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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