Bigger challenges ahead for Galway after Connacht final win, says Kelly

Galway captain Seán Kelly admits there are bigger challenges ahead for his team as they prepare for their All-Ireland series opener against Derry.

After a thrilling Connacht final victory over rivals Mayo, Galway face a tough group, which includes Derry, Armagh and Westmeath, three teams who Galway have had battles with in previous years.

While Galway have not been at their best this season, they won their third provincial title in-a-row with a comeback victory in Salthill on May 5th, something which Kelly hopes can give Galway momentum for the rest of the season.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really soaked in, the three in-a-row in Connacht. Maybe in 20 years I’ll realise that, but right now it’s all about what’s next.

“There are bigger challenges ahead, but beating the arch rivals in any kind of final is good; they’ve got the better of us and knocked us out of the championship the last few years, so it was good to get a positive result like that. Hopefully, that can really kick on the squad now and we can keep building on that because we have massive challenges ahead.

“Our main goal is still not finished, but it’s going to be a huge challenge, and it starts with Derry.”


After a difficult league campaign, and an unconvincing win over Sligo in the semi-final, Kelly admitted there was pressure on Galway to deliver.

When Mayo took a three-point lead in the second half in Salthill, it looked like another tight game which Galway would come out on the wrong side of.

However, a late rally, combined with a match-winning free kick from goalkeeper Conor Gleeson, meant Galway retained their title, with Kelly admitting it made it all the more sweeter.

“End of the result, yes. But when you are in the game, you probably prefer to be leading to be honest. Obviously not just hanging on, but hopefully kicking on and pushing forward. It made it so much sweeter that it was two or three points down and we just clawed it back.

“You could see the motion after the game, it just shows how badly both teams wanted to win it too. While one team was disappointed, the other team was delighted. Small margins, but huge consequences.

“We were putting pressure on ourselves over how badly we wanted to win that game. Padraig would have been saying himself how badly he wanted to win it too, as Mayo got the better of us in the last couple of years and knocked us out of the championship.

“While it wasn’t a knockout game, there was that edge from both teams too of wanting to win.


Memories of last year’s exit to Mayo in the championship made the final victory all the more imprtant, but also provided a reminder of how they ended up in that position.

A late defeat to Armagh, who are in Galway’s group once again, meant Galway finished second in the group, and faced an extra fixture against Mayo, who defeated them in the preliminary quarter-finals.

Kelly is aware how important consistency is, as they face a well-rested Derry side out to prove a point on Saturday.

“Derry are a great side, a great league campaign this year, and they’re probably disappointed with their Ulster championship (performance) against Donegal.

“They’ve had a six-week break, reset and going to be raring to go when we play them, so it’s going to be a huge challenge.

“Getting that top seed is important, it avoids playing an extra game, that prelim, which is a huge battle, and you’re playing three weeks in a row.

“You do have to put that pressure on yourself, but we also know it’s going to be a huge challenge. It’s not just Derry, it’s three great teams, whether it’s Armagh or Donegal, but also Westmeath, who gave us a great game last year. We got over the line in the second half, thankfully.

“It’s going to be huge challenges, but it’s something we look forward to.”

Injury woes

Injuries to key players, including Kelly, was a major blow to Galway at vital stages of last season.

Kelly admitted it was a frustrating time on the sidelines, as he could not catch a break. However, he took the positives, with Galway’s depth on show, he was impressed by how younger players stood up.

Now that he is fit, alongside key forwards Damien Comer and Shane Walsh returning from injures, the Galway defender said it has made him more aware of his body.

“I was back with club last year and ended up with a nick in my hamstring which kept me out for another six/seven weeks and then got back again. You’re kind of rehabbing both then just to get everything right. Then, obviously, I nicked my hamstring again during the League campaign and was out for two weeks.

“Thankfully, I’m now starting to feel good, and it’s more about just getting games and minutes in you in training. It’s a challenge, but it has to be done. It’s just getting as much minutes under the belt and then that hopefully builds up that robustness, which is important too.

“Just trying to stay injury-free is so important and it’s about knowing your own body too is probably the most important thing. What you’re able to do after the games and it takes time for that.

“You see a lot of younger lads coming in and maybe pulling up with injuries. I know I went through a period of time too where that happened. It’s just learning your body and knowing what you can and can’t do which is probably the most important thing.”


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