Galway has given four players their league debuts as they start their Division two national league campaign with a daunting trip away to Derry this Sunday, throw-in 2.30pm at Celtic Park.
Goalkeeper Manus Breathnach from An Spideal, corner-back Keith Kelly from Ballinasloe, Mark Hehir from Milltown at right-half forward and clubmate Michael Martin at right corner-forward all make their league bows this Sunday. Finian Hanley from Salthill -Knocknacarra is the captain for 2012 as last year’s successful U-21 side make up the brunt of the Galway side that face Derry.
Relegation from the top flight followed what was a dire season for the Tribesmen last year with only one win under former manager Tomás O Flatharta who tended to play players out of position.
Current boss Alan Mulholland now has the unenviable task of bringing Galway football back to the top flight where they have been for the past number of years and a promising FBD campaign, where Mulholland mixed many of last year’s winning U-21 players with current senior players, has been a boost.
The dreadful league and championship campaigns in recent years indicate clearly that football within the county has struggled to produce the quality of footballers, in the mould of Michael Donnellan, Ja Fallon or Padraic Joyce, needed to compete at this level. The latter has been on a leave of absence and Mulholland is waiting on news from the former captain if he is available for this coming season.
Michael Meehan, it seems, has exhausted all his avenues in trying to fix his ongoing ankle injury. Manager Mulholland allied it to a ‘Paul McGrath-style’ injury, meaning he can only train and play when his ankle allows him to. This is certainly a disheartening development for one of the counties most naturally gifted footballers.
Derry is still coming to terms with a poor refereeing decision that cost them the McKenna Cup last weekend. James Conway’s dubious red card on 18 minutes shocked everyone and manager John Brennan was anything but amused at Fermanagh referee Martin Higgins decision.
One notable positive from Sunday’s defeat to Tyrone was the continuing rehabilitation of Paddy Bradley who scored 1-2. Brennan praised the John Mitchel’s club man after the game and has said to watch out for the former all-star to come good in the league.
Derry traditionally does well in the league last winning it in 2008 and appeared in the final in 2009 while Galway has underperformed in recent years.
Despite Galway’s recent good run in the FBD league, Derry will have too much in their arsenal, along with home support, to claim the full two points come Sunday night.
Verdict: Derry by 3-5 points.
1 Manus Breathnach, 2 Colin Forde, 3 Finian Hanley 4 Keith Kelly,5 Garreth Bradshaw, 6 Johnny Duane, 7 Gary O’Donnell
8 Thomas Flynn, 9 Fionntáin Ó Curraoin, 10 Jonathan Ryan, 11 Paul Conroy, 12 Mark Hehir, 13 Michael Martin, 14 Cormac Bane, 15 Danny Cummins
1 Danny Devlin, 2 Brian McCallion, 3 Liam Morrow, 4 Ryan Dillon, 5 Chrissy McKaigue, 6 Mark Craig, 7 Sean Leo McGoldrick, 8 James Conway, 9 Joe Diver, 10 Barry McGoldrick, 11 Mark Lynch, 12 Michael Bateson, 13 Cailean O’Boyle, 14 Paddy Bradley, 15 Conleith Gilligan