Galway making gallant progress under Kevin Walsh

The Galway players face Dublin in Sunday's Division One final

GALWAY take on the mighty Dublin in their first top flight League final appearance since 2006.

They also reached the decider in 2004 and 2001 – the year the great team of Padraic Joyce and co won the county's most recent All-Ireland title.

Yet even that team were unable to win the Football League. Incredibly, it's been 37 years since they won it. I was four years of age, sitting on my mother's couch watching the movie Faeries on video cassette.

It seems so long ago. In contrast, Dublin have featured in the last five finals, winning four of them.

So what does it tell us about this Galway side?

The obvious points are that their stock is on the rise, they are gaining consistency, they have an abundance of raw talent and they have been patient as Kevin Walsh honed his system of play.

Walsh is no slouch. He's won two All-Ireland medals as a player and three Allstars to boot. He's confident and assured and he's got the backing of the Galway supporters to do whatever he feels needs to be done to win.

That is not an easy feat. Galway players are always blessed with natural power and elegance. Their instinct is to outplay rather than to outsmart. Their supporters want to win, but to win classy.

So in 2014 when Walsh sought to develop a system of play which had a solid defensive plan as a core objective, surely he knew criticism was but one game away.

Fortunately for him and this team they won some key battles in Connacht against their nemesis Mayo and a Division Two title to cement their place in the top flight against the big boys and instil confidence in his system of play.

A manager's journey is not always that fortunate. Take Kieran McGeeney for example. He took control of his native Armagh in 2015 having spent the previous year in an understudy role to Paul Grimley.

Kieran measures up to Kevin Walsh in terms of his playing career and level of success.

However, when he became Armagh manager his system of play was hamstrung by a series of poor losses and a lack of success. Criticism rained down on him from within the county and further afield.

It is a measure of the man that he has conviction in his own beliefs and a dogged perseverance until eventually Armagh started to play as a team and gained promotion to Division Two for the 2019 season.

Whether they win or lose in the Division Three final against Fermanagh is irrelevant – although Kieran may have other views on that.

So success is a critical ingredient in being a good manager. Does this mean defeat to Dublin on Sunday makes Galway a bad team? I don't think so.

What Galway have done is given themselves an opportunity to be the best.

They are now in the position to challenge for honours as a top-four team. Sometimes success is instant and out of the blue, for example, while at other times it requires years of slogging.

In other cases success in not measured by final wins at all. Who would deny Wexford their successful years in the Noughties without having a major medal to show for their efforts?

Walsh knows the road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same. As a player he had a fantastic work ethic. His system of play is dependent on this ingredient.

His players demonstrate an understanding of their roles and a loyalty to each other and the management which can only mean that they are coming to Croke Park on Sunday ready for battle and primed to do what it takes to win, though they perhaps lack a Paddy McBrearty who will kick eight points

Back in the day when I played for Armagh our trainer John McCloskey, who was ahead of his time in GAA training terms, also thought of himself as a trainee psychologist, a football coach if Joe Kernan or 'Grimbo' turned their back for one second, a nutritionalist – and a primary school teacher from nine to five.

He is an all round good guy. In the run up to the 2005 League final John shared a quote by Abraham Lincoln: 'I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down.'

Now I was not one those guys who wrote quotes up on their bedroom wall or on the back of their hand, but this quote did resonate with me.

When a team have been on the road for a number of years and competing at the highest levels they become great friends and consider each other family.

In tight games or on occasions when one is not at their best, there is always a run to be made, a body to be put on the line. Sometimes players do something not for their own selfish gain but for their teammate.

If Galway operate at this level 2018 might yet be a fairytale year.

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