Connacht SFC Preview: Galway set for Connacht title defence



Manager: Kevin Walsh (3rd year)

Last title: 2016 – 46 titles in all.

2017 League: Finished 1st in Division Two and won the title, beating Kildare in the final.

Key players: Paul Conroy, Damien Comer.

First game: Mayo or Sligo in Pearse Stadium on Sunday, June 11th.

Prospects: Galway are looking very good and improving with every outing. They have been boosted by the return to the panel of Michael Meehan and Sean Armstrong and the performances of their U-21 team. If they can get their best team out on the field for a possible semi-final clash with Mayo they could retain their title. They have excellent attackers with plenty of talented young players on the way.

Their view: “We are probably not under as much pressure as we were (to win the title) as last year but then again, the expectation has gone up. The Connacht title is a big one for us and it would be lovely to retain it but things can go against you. You can have a bad day out like we did (against Tipperary) last year.” – Kevin Walsh, Galway manager.

Prediction: This Galway team are on the way up and the possible clash with Mayo in Salthill promises to be huge. Attacking talent is hard to unearth but Galway have some outstanding forwards. Connacht champions for me.


Manager: Stephen Rochford  (2nd year)

Last title: 2015 – 46 titles in all.

2017 League: Finished 5th in Division One (won 4 lost 3)

First game: Sligo in MacHale Park on Sunday, May 21st.

Key players: Lee Keegan, Cillian O’Connor.

Prospects: This will be the 7th year that a lot of the Mayo players will have been at the very top. They are still one of the top teams in the country. They should have few problems against Sligo but Galway in Salthill will be a different prospect altogether. That could be one of the best games of the summer and it will be a huge test. Regardless of the result, Mayo will be playing football in August.

Their view: “We are happy with our preparations. We finished the league campaign with two excellent wins when we needed them. The lads have been with their clubs for the past month and that has been good for them. The spirit is really good and we are really looking forward to the Sligo game. When the weather gets better and we start training for the championship the excitement rises. There is no chat in our group about any possible game with Galway. Sligo have a very strong forward line and I am expecting a huge challenge from them.” – Stephen Rochford, Mayo manager.

Prediction: Mayo are still up there at the very top but having beaten Sligo they could run into trouble against an emerging and impressive Galway in Salthill. I still expect them to get to the All-Ireland quarter-finals following a Connacht semi-final defeat at the hands of Galway.


Manager: Kevin McStay (2nd year – 1st as sole manager)

Last title: 2010 – 21 titles in all.

2017 League: Finished 8th in Division One (Lost 7 Won 1)

Key players: Ciaráin Murtagh, Enda Smith.

First game: London or Leitrim at Dr. Hyde Park on Sunday, June 18th.

Prospects: The league campaign was a disappointment and the fact that a number of players have opted not to play in 2017 is also a blow to the team. The long break after the league will be a boost and the draw is a big help to them too. They will be able to beat Leitrim or London but may find Mayo or Galway too strong.

Their view: “The break is vital for us this year. We have three challenge games lined up for the next few weeks and some hard training. We are targeting the Leitrim or London game for a win. On the other side of the draw, with all respect to Sligo, it looks like Mayo and Galway. But even if Mayo are beaten they will still be there in August. If we get to the Connacht final with all our players fit we will be very competitive.” – Roscommon selector and coach, Liam McHale.

Prediction: They should be able to account for Leitrim or London and will be underdogs in the Connacht final which will suit them. However, winning the Connacht title looks a bridge too far. Losing Connacht finalists.


Team manager: Neil Carew (4th year)

Last title: 2007 – 3 titles in all.

2017 League: Finished 4th in Division Three (Lost 3 Won 3 Drew 1)

Key players: Niall Murphy, Neil Ewing.

First game: Beat New York 1-21 to 1-13 and play Mayo on Sunday, May 21st in MacHale Park.

Prospects: Having come through a severe test in The Big Apple there is not much consolation for Sligo as they have to travel to Castlebar next Sunday. It is vital for them to have a full team out on Sunday to have any chance. Would be looking at a run in the qualifiers to be honest.

Their view: “We were delighted to win in New York. We are looking forward to the challenge of playing Mayo who are a top three team but we want to test ourselves against the best and that’s what will happen on Sunday. We feel if we play to the best of our ability we have a chance of taking a big scalp. If the injuries clear up we have a great chance and even though we are underdogs, it is a game we are looking forward to.” – Sligo player Kevin McDonnell.

Prediction: Despite a good win in New York it is most likely that Sligo will have to rely on the qualifier route to make any progress this year. Losing quarter-finalists to Mayo next Sunday.


Manager: Benny Guckian (1st year)

Last title: 1994 – 2 titles in all.

2017 League: Finished 5th in Division Four (won 4 lost 3)

Key players: Emlyn Mulligan, Donal Wrynn.

First game: London In Ruislip on Sunday, May 28th.

Prospects: With a new management team on board including John O’Mahony, Leitrim’s league performances were a disappointment but their sole focus will be to beat London in what looks a difficult game. The carrot of a semi-final appearance against old rivals Roscommon is a huge one.

Their view: “We would never take London for granted and above all years this year we certainly aren’t. We struggled at times against them when we met in the league. It is the first championship game in Ruislip since it was refurbished and they will be keen to win it. We have to focus on our own performance and not get caught up in the carnival atmosphere that surrounds this game. We are not looking ahead to a Connnacht semi-final at all. If we beat London then we can chat about a semi-final.” – Benny Guckian, Leitrim manager

Prediction: Might just scrape a win against London in what looks like a very difficult game. However, semi-final losers to Roscommon at Dr. Hyde Park looks to be their fate.


Team manager: Ciaran Deeley (2nd year)

Last title: None

2017 League: Finished 8th in Division Four (Lost 7 Won 1)

Key players: Liam Gavagan, Mark Gottsche.

First game: Leitrim on Sunday, May 28th in Ruislip.

Prospects: London had a poor league campaign but they have been boosted by the addition of Owen Mulligan and Kevin O’Brien to their backroom team in recent months. The fact that Ruislip will re-open for the game against Leitrim will be a huge incentive for them but it is hard to see them progressing.

Their view: “We had a mixed league campaign but we competed well. We are looking for a big performance against Leitrim and if we are there with a chance in the last few minutes we can win it. It’s the first game in the refurbished Ruislip and it would be nice to win it. It’s great to have someone like Owen Mulligan involved. It’s unlikely he will play but he is a positive influence on the younger lads which is great for us.” – Ciaran Deeley, London manager.

Prediction: With the magnificent new £5 million development opening in Ruislip, London would love to win against Leitrim and while it might be a close game, it’s hard to see them win. First round loss in prospect here.