New approaches for both Galway and Monaghan
Allianz Football League Division One: Galway v Monaghan (Pearse Stadium, Salthill, 2.30pm Sunday)
NEW decade, new approach?
That may be a northern message but it also applies out west, where Galway are looking forward – and aiming high under the new management of old favourite Padraic Joyce.
Monaghan have a new/old boss too, back how they ended the last decade, with Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney in charge. The task for him is tough enough, to maintain the high standards set by his predecessor Malachy O’Rourke – who had five years in the top flight, two Ulster titles, and an All-Ireland semi-final appearance.
Joyce went even further in his first public interview after his appointment, telling Galway Bay FM that he was setting his sights on lifting ‘Sam’ for the first time since he starred in the final back in 2001.
“A successful year one would be to start off by winning the FBD league, go on and win the national league, and then win the All-Ireland. That is our aim.
“That might sound far-fetched to a lot of people. I am not saying we are going to win the All-Ireland in two years’ time or three years or we are training for two years’ time.
“We are training for August 30... That is when the All-Ireland final is on. If we don't do that, I will see it as disappointment.
“Our aim is to win an All-Ireland, simple as that. Anything less than that will be seen as an underachievement.”
There’ll be plenty who’ll laugh at that ambition, but Joyce and the Tribesmen have at least achieved the first part of that, beating Mayo (in a semi-final penalty shoot-out) then seeing off Roscommon in the decider.
Monaghan didn’t quite do that, second best to – who else? – Tyrone in their ‘pre-season’ competition, the McKenna Cup.
However, they sent out almost a second string side last Saturday night, with McEnaney and his selector’s making 10 changes to formulate a much more familiar-looking team.
Indeed 10 of the side announced also started that famous evening at this same venue less than 18 months, the unforgettable occasion when Monaghan won through to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Galway’s place was already secured then, but they will look much different when they line out tomorrow – only Gary O’Donnell, Tom Flynn, Shane Walsh, and Adrian Varley are expected to start both games.
The changes in personnel is likely to be accompanied by a more attacking approach, although that will hardly be difficult compared to the defensive, safety first methods largely deployed by previous boss Kevin Walsh.
Galway aren’t at full strength, due to injuries and with Corofin probably still celebrating their historic All-Ireland Club SFC three-in-a-row.
The return of former captain Paul Conroy to their attack after a lengthy injury absence is an obvious boost, of course, while new skipper Shane Walsh at the forefront of their forward line.
Still, Joyce has handed league debuts to two attackers – his Killererin clubmate Michael Daly and Robert Finnerty of Salthill-Knocknacarra, who will be in familiar surroundings.
At full-back there’s a first start at this level for former U20 captain Sean Mulkerrin – the multi-talented, 6’4” Aran Islander, who’s also a traditional singer and dancer.
For all his lightness of foot, he’ll be glad that absent from the visiting team is one of the finest forwards since Joyce in his heyday, Conor McManus.
Yet Monaghan have plenty of attacking talent to work with, including another ‘C Mc’ – Conor McCarthy, Kieran Hughes, Jack McCarron, and the star of DCU’s midweek Sigerson Cup semi-final success against their arch-rivals UCD, namely Micheal Bannigan. Another Monaghan youngster, David Garland, probably played even better for DCU on Wednesday evening.
This is a testing start second time around for ‘Banty’, but he’ll be determined to prove the doubters wrong, helped by his new management team of Peter Donnelly and Conor Laverty.
Galway: C Gleeson; J Duane, S Mulkerrin, J Heaney; G O’Donnell, J Daly, C McDaid; T Flynn, C D’Arcy; M Boyle, P Conroy, M Daly; R Finnerty, S Walsh, A Varley.
Monaghan: R Beggan; K Duffy, D Wylie, C Boyle; R McAnespie, R Wylie (capt.), K O’Connell; D Hughes, N Kearns; K Hughes, M Bannigan, D Ward; C McCarthy, J McCarron, D Malone.