Hell or Connacht? | 

Galway can defy the odds and pull off All-Ireland final win against Kerry

David Brady believes Galway have a chance in today’s All-Ireland football final
Damien Comer

Damien Comer© ?¨?? ???%????/????

Rob Finnerty has been terrific for Galway

Rob Finnerty has been terrific for Galway© SPORTSFILE

David BradySunday World

Let me clear up two burning issues before I proceed.

Firstly, I really believe Galway have a chance in today’s All-Ireland football final and a real chance at that.

Secondly, of course, it will dent the ego of every Mayo GAA fan if their age-old rivals come in and win the big prize.

I guess the mood in my native county was summed up by a remark a Mayo man made to me after Galway’s victory over Derry in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“There is only one thing I hate in life more than Galway winning and that is Galway winning an All-Ireland!”

The Bull McCabe spent nearly three decades diligently tending to a rented field right on the border between Mayo and Galway.

A lifetime of toil was invested into the project and naturally it was a source of much pride to the Bull.

When the field went up for sale he felt he had a God-given right to purchase it.

But his world was turned upside down when a rich American strolled into town and outbid him.

The rest is history but the story didn’t end well for the Bull.

This is of course, a fictional story, immortalised in John B Keane’s famous play and later made into a film starring Richard Harris as the redoubtable Bull McCabe.

The football rivalry between Mayo and Galway is a bit like the story of the field that the Bull McCabe coveted so much.

The reality is that nobody has a God given right to the Promised Land in football. That right has to earned on the field of play.

There are striking parallels between this All-Ireland Championship and the 1998 series when Galway took the Sam Maguire across the Shannon for the first time since 1966.

Padraic Joyce

Padraic Joyce© SPORTSFILE

Back in 1998, under the guidance of a Mayo man John O’Mahony, Galway completed the job that Mayo had failed to do in 1997 and 1996, namely win an All-Ireland final.

Roll on two decades and Galway now find themselves back in a final - having watched from the sideline as Mayo reached multiple deciders in those intervening years.

I was part of the Mayo team which contested those finals in 1996 and 1997. Being honest, it was emotional, to say the least, to see our closest rivals lift the silverware in 1998.

Pádraic Joyce was a key member of that 1998 Galway winning team and picked up a second All-Ireland medal three years later.

Once he took on the job of managing Galway he set out his stall early. He said he would regard anything other than winning an All-Ireland as a failure.

Galway manager Padraic Joyce

Galway manager Padraic Joyce© ?¨?? ???%????/????

Of course, he then had to convert those words into results. There have been hiccups on the way but he is now one win away from achieving his goal.

Beating Mayo in this year’s Connacht Championship on Mayo soil was very much a mirror image of what happened in 1998.

It ignited a fire of belief in this Galway squad and they have accounted for every challenge since. Kerry now stand in their way.

In many people’s minds today’s result can only go one way. But the burden of being such hot favourites will weigh heavily on a team which, not only has a number of inexperienced players, but is seeking to win the county’s first All-Ireland title since 2014.

When the finish line approaches the weight of expectation will be far heavier on the shoulders of the Kerry players than their Galway counterparts.

Don’t forget that, though none of the Galway players have won an All-Ireland senior medal, many of the Maroon players have won at virtually every other level including All-Ireland Club, Sigerson Cup and at underage.

Furthermore, they are managed by one of the all-time greats on the sideline. He achieved everything in the game and this is certain to rub off on his players.

The level of expectation on Galway outside the county is so low than it cannot but motivate the players.

I know it has done so in the past and it gives them an opportunity to express themselves in a way that could surprise Kerry and the fans.

Rob Finnerty, son of my former Mayo team-mate Anthony, has been a revelation this season.

Rob Finnerty has been terrific for Galway

Rob Finnerty has been terrific for Galway© SPORTSFILE

He has provided an added threat to the Galway forward division which already has two match winners in Damien Comer and Shane Walsh.

So, Galway have forwards capable of asking searching questions of the Kerry defence.

At times Kerry ace David Clifford is unmarkable. So it is a question of damage limitation for whichever defender or defenders are tasked with marking him.

The way to reduce Clifford’s influence is to ‘mark’ the ball going into him. In other words disrupt the supply lines.

I expect Galway will go very defensive right from the throw-in.

They have demonstrated in this year’s Championship how comfortable they are playing with system.

The half of the field they are defending will resemble Shop Street in Galway on a busy afternoon.

They will counter-attack with flair and flamboyance but most of all with pace.

Kerry have become reliant on a tiny cohort of players in this year’s Championship.

Despite Kerry’s almost euphoric reaction to their win over Dublin in the semi-final, the fact is that only five Kingdom players got on the score sheet. David Clifford and Seánie O’Shea accounted for 1-10 of their 1-14 total.

To hell with the rivalry and to hell or to Connacht – Galway during race week, with Sam in the winner’s enclosure, will be where I will be heading next week.

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