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Galway ‘optimistic’ says Silke


SAVOURING THE MOMENT Galway’s Damien Comer celebrates with supporters after their win over Mayo in the Connacht GAA SFC semi-final in Castlebar last year. Pic: Sportsfile

Mike Finnerty

FORMER All-Ireland-winning captain Ray Silke has described the mood among Galway football fans as ‘optimistic and hopeful’ ahead of Sunday week’s Connacht SFC semi-final against Mayo.
Silke, who lifted the Sam Maguire Cup in 1998, feels ‘it’s almost impossible’ to predict who will win the local derby match at this early stage, but he believes that Galway ‘have a pep in their step’ after winning promotion in the National League campaign last month.
“People are really looking forward to it, and there’s a huge appetite for the game in Galway,” Silke told The Mayo News. “I suppose that comes from beating Mayo last year, being promoted in the league this season, and the under-21s reaching the All-Ireland final.
“There’s a sense of momentum about Galway football at the moment.
“Plus, you’ve got the Corofin angle with Stephen Rochford as well which adds another element to it. I’d say the mood around Galway is optimistic and hopeful.
“In terms of predictions, it’s very difficult to call this far out, nearly impossible.
“Nobody here is fully sure how Galway are going to line out for the game, but even if they have all their ducks in a row, I think they’re still going to have to produce a huge performance to beat Mayo. An awful lot depends on Damien Comer’s fitness and form.
“Galway have improved, there’s no doubt about that, but Mayo were flat in last year’s game.
“And Mayo are still a top two or three team, whereas Galway haven’t been in that bracket for 15 years. That’s the reality of it and that’s why Mayo are favourites to win on Sunday week.”
Mayo suffered a shock defeat to the Tribesmen in last year’s provincial semi-final in Castlebar after a late Thomas Flynn goal saw the underdogs pull off a big ambush.
Kevin Walsh’s team went on to beat Roscommon in the Connacht final after a replay before being caught on the hop by Tipperary in the All-Ireland quarter-final, losing by nine points.
So while beating Mayo is top of Galway’s agenda at the moment, Ray Silke feels that Walsh will also be conscious of the bigger picture this summer.
“This is big game for Galway, but the bigger thing for them is progression through the championship, getting into the last eight,” says the former Corofin defender.
“We need to beat somebody in Croke Park in the championship, because we still haven’t forgotten that Tipperary took us apart in the quarter-final last year.
“What I will say though is that the Galway players have really bought into what Kevin Walsh is doing. No stone has been left unturned and a massive effort has gone in this season again.
“Galway’s season so far has been more successful than Mayo’s; there’s a pep in their step going to Salthill. Guys like Ruairí Lavelle and Michael Daly have been big additions, the under-21s had a good run, and fellas like Shane Walsh and Eoin Brannigan are a year older.”
“Is there pressure on Mayo to beat Galway? Yes, absolutely,” continued Silke.
“Stephen Rochford had great success with Corofin, and is a fine coach and manager, but the goalkeeping switch in last year’s All-Ireland final replay backfired badly and it’s not going to be forgotten easily, or at least until Mayo win an All-Ireland.
“I don’t think for a second that Galway will win the All-Ireland this year, but the jury is still out on Mayo as being good enough to win it in 2017 too.”

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