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Belfast Live
Pat Nolan

Armagh vs Galway: Tribesmen believe they can go all the way says Shane Walsh

Shane Walsh has credited Pádraic Joyce for infusing Galway with the belief that they can go all the way in this year’s Championship.

Galway take on Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final on Sunday and the way the draw has panned out presents a rare opportunity for them, Derry, Clare and Kieran McGeeney’s men, who are the most recent finalist (2003) of the four on that side.

It’s 2001 since Galway won an All-Ireland, with current boss Joyce starring, and they’ve only been to a single semi-final since but that hasn’t stopped them entertaining thoughts of bridging the 21-year gap.

Read more: Armagh keeper Ethan Rafferty claims Ulster Road Bowls title

“There’s definitely more of a belief there now,” says Walsh.

“Like, Pádraic is a man of belief. He’s such a confident man. What he said when he played, he did.

“He was just an unbelievable footballer and to have that confidence, it shows, and it spreads across the team as well. The players see that as well. When you have a manager breathing that confidence into you as well, that helps.

“There could be doubts in the back of some lad’s mind and they’re kind of saying, ‘Am I going to? Is it going to happen?’ Whereas if you have a manager inspiring you all the time to help you and encourage you on, then you’re thinking, ‘Well, why can’t I?’ That’s the way I see it. Why not us?

Galway senior football manager Pádraic Joyce (©INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan)

“Tyrone won it last year and when Dublin were winning it they had the belief. Where we get our money’s worth is there could be a stage in the quarter-final where we’re down having played well at half-time and that’s when your belief is tested.

“You’re saying to yourself, ‘We played well, but we’ve been unlucky’. There could be a goal that goes in off a freak deflection or something like that. It’s how we respond to that, that’s when your character is tested.

“I think throughout the League we’ve bounced back in situations that were sticky enough and came through those. Even against Roscommon we didn’t play well on the day and still came back to make a right game of it down the stretch.

“I think that’s the sign of a team and I think we are building that character all the time. Hopefully everyone will see that down the line.”

Joyce installed Walsh as captain when he took over ahead of the 2020 campaign and, though the honour has since passed to Sean Kelly, it’s clear that the two-time All-Ireland winner rates the Kilkerrin-Clonberne extremely highly.

After his 1-6 salvo against Roscommon in the Connacht final, Joyce said Walsh was “one of the best footballers I’ve ever seen” and the respect runs both ways.

“I have huge admiration for Pádraic as a player and a manager. He has Galway at the centre of his heart.

“It is so refreshing when you have someone like that. He wants the best for Galway. He has made that so clear. It is the heartwarming thing for me. Galway to the core. It is nice.

“He might say that the last day but I know he will have something different to say to me in training the next night as well. Look, there is a challenge there every time you go out it is to try and better yourself.

Galway's Shane Walsh in action against Roscommon's Ciaran Murtagh and Brian Stack in last month's Connacht final. (©INPHO/John McVitty)

“He always says when you go out leave your best performance for Galway every time you play and improve every day. If we do that good things can happen for Galway.

“If that happens with every player, it has to happen all around. I think I am the last of the players to play well so hopefully, we can keep it going now.”

Walsh is one of the most eye-catching forwards in the game and plays largely on instinct. Pressure, he says, washes over him.

“I always say you ignore a crowd and it can be hard when you pick up a ball in an area of the pitch and all of a sudden it goes from being quiet to there being a lot of expectation.

“One thing I learned from Paddy Tally when he came in in 2018 was just about dislocating expectations. As in, ‘Who are you?’ And as Cian O’Neill says, it’s about humility as well.

“It’s a new occasion, it’s a new game, so who are you in some ways. You just have to go out and do what you can do. Do what you can with the ability you have.

“For me, I slag the lads and say pressure is for tyres. Even Mum and Dad would be asking me would I be nervous going into the game on Sunday or other people would you be asking you whether you’re nervous. I’d be like, ‘What have I to be nervous about? I’ve been training the guts of 20 years for this. I’ve been training all year’.

“The only way I’d ever be nervous was if I missed training. Because then I’m saying, ‘Have I practised enough?’

“Whereas right now I’m saying, ‘I practise so much, just let me out there’. That’s the way I’d be going into a game. It’s another game. What’s the difference between our first Championship game and the last Championship game?

“To me, it’s 70 minutes of football, it’s another opposition, let’s go get them.”

Read more: GAA tickets plus Croke Park seating plan for Derry v Clare, Dublin v Cork, Galway v Armagh, and Kerry v Mayo

Read more: Derry vs Clare: Rory Gallagher provides an injury update ahead of Banner battle

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