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big ambition 'Small tweaks are all Pádraic Joyce’s Galway need' - Seán Armstrong on why Tribes are ready to deliver

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Galway manager Pádraic Joyce is now into his third season in charge of the Tribesmen. Photo: Sportsfile

Galway manager Pádraic Joyce is now into his third season in charge of the Tribesmen. Photo: Sportsfile

Galway manager Pádraic Joyce is now into his third season in charge of the Tribesmen. Photo: Sportsfile

When Pádraic Joyce granted his first interview as Galway manager, he pulled no punches. On Galway Bay FM, he shot for the stars in terms of his ambition for the county.

Our aim is to win another All-Ireland – simple as that. Anything less will be seen as an underachievement,” he said.

It’s fair to say the two seasons since have been anything but straightforward. Some of their wounds have been self-inflicted and at other times they have been plain unlucky.

A flying start as manager saw them win four of their first five league games, with their only defeat coming in a one-point reversal at the hands of Kerry in Tralee. Then Covid hit, and by the time action returned, they couldn’t right the ship.

Sligo couldn’t field that summer meaning Galway went into a Connacht final cold. They’d lose by a point to Mayo.

The following season saw a curtailed league which saw them in a relegation play-off with Monaghan. They went down after extra-time in a game they had chances to close out.

Later the same year, they blew a winning position in the Connacht final in Croke Park. Galway held a five-point lead but failed to score from play in the second half as they lost by six.

That defeat also meant Galway lost three Connacht finals on the spin for the first time since 1937.

Seán Armstrong was at the coalface for Galway for years. He’s also dialled into the club scene in Galway having been involved in various Salthill-Knocknacarra underage sides, while he is also set to assist new senior manager John O’Mahony in 2022.

He believes that only small adjustments are needed for Galway to realise their full potential.

“Pádraic took over and they were flying, playing a beautiful brand of football and they seemed to have the right mix going in terms of defence. They were transitioning quickly with Seán Kelly and Johnny Heaney coming out, springing off the shoulder and creating overlaps,” he said.

“Then Covid came and they couldn’t train, and since then Pádraic has rarely got a chance to get them together without Covid intervening.

“The championship then was knockout and they didn’t get enough matches for Pádraic to put his stamp on the team itself. From watching last year Pádraic has identified the fact that maybe they need to get a bit better going from defence to attack and that’s why he got Cian O’Neill into the backroom team so now the blend will be right and that’s what’s most exciting.

“Pádraic is getting a much better chance now, they’ve been back a while and I’m sure they’re working on his system.

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Armstrong worked under O’Neill when he was a student at UL and pointed out the Kildare native’s impressive CV that includes working with an All-Ireland-winning Tipperary side.

“People might be quick to forget that when Mayo were starting to bubble and were in their pomp pushing for All-Irelands against Dublin, Cian was there.

You can see the same kind of footprint with Galway. I was watching the game (against Mayo) that was streamed (from the Dome) and the tackling and work-rate and amount of turnovers they got was fantastic you could see they were buying into the work-rate.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the measurements they are using in the dressing-room with turnovers and tackles. They haven’t gone into a full defensive shape that people were giving out about when Kevin took over.

I think we have just been caught out in the last year in the closing stages of a game not being properly set up in a defensive shape. I think that’s why he brought in Cian O’Neill.”

With Galway losing the likes of former captain Gary O’Donnell, relegation may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

“There’s a good sense around the place. There is potential there but it is very much a new team because if you look at the stalwarts, Gary O’Donnell has hung up the boots, Gareth Bradshaw too. So those very experienced lads are gone but it has opened the door for younger players.

“If you look at the team that played Mayo in the Dome the last day you are looking at Paul Conroy as your only real stalwart who has been there, and then Johnny Heaney and maybe Cillian McDaid to a lesser extent, but you are seeing loads of youth coming through which is exciting.

“For Kevin’s first couple of years he was in Division 2. It gave him a chance to try out a few things and try out players. There isn’t as much pressure in Division 2, so long as you are obviously safe.

“I’d imagine they will use the league to try things, but with the prospect of trying to get back to Division 1 because if you are trying to compete and get into the last four, that’s where you want to be.”


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