Damien Comer and Galway relishing Division One return
‘This is my fifth season and my first chance to play Division One,’ says forward Damien Comer
Galway’s Damien Comer at the launch of the 2018 Allianz Football League in Dublin. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Eight years may not be much of a famine in the life of Galway football, but a return to Division One has not come soon enough. To beat the best you have to at least play them – and Galway certainly feel ready for that now.
Relegation to Division Two back in 2011, a decade on from winning their last All-Ireland, felt at the time like a temporary blip. Yet it has taken those eight years to rise up again – winning the Division Two title outright last year sealing that fate.
Indeed, few of the current Galway panel even know what it is like to consistently play against the big boys: the recent retirements of Michael Meehan, Finian Hanley and Gary Sice have further distanced the current panel with that era, and for some Division One is a complete novelty.
“This is my fifth season, and my first chance to play in Division One,” says forward Damien Comer. “And I feel like I’m there a long time now, probably becoming one of the more experienced after the few more retirements.
“Growing up you want to play at the top level no matter what the game is. Like, I’ve never played against the Dubs, in league or championship or even a challenge, so that’ll be a tester. Obviously they’re a formidable side, so looking forward to that one.
“It’s a stepping stone then for championship, because you come up against these teams then in championship. And sometimes they can be at a higher intensity level because they’re playing at that higher level during the year.
“You’ve got to be more streetwise because obviously they’ve been around the block, seasoned Division One campaigners, so you have to bring your own edge.”
Galway’s campaign starts on Sunday with the visit of Tyrone to Tuam Stadium, and they will also be hosting Dublin at home, which means no big day out in Croke Park for a while yet.
Comer has already been busy with NUIG, helping come through their Sigerson Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday when beating IT Sligo. He does not mind the schedule as long as common sense prevails.
“As long as it’s managed well. Maurice Sheridan is the NUIG manager, and himself and Kevin Walsh [Galway manager] are good at talking to each other, and once you have that communication between the managers it makes it so much easier for the players.
“There were times where managers weren’t talking, and it all came through the players...It should never come through the player; the player will literally go where he’s told. If you’re told to be here at half seven, and somewhere else at half seven on the same evening, it’s just a headache, and obviously the management haven’t talked.
“This year it’s very reasonable. There’s about seven or eight lads who are overlapping on both, and we kind of run it through the different managements.”
Comer is also the latest in the line of intercounty players to opt for a career in teaching (he is doing an MA in education in science and maths teaching). Whatever about the suggestion teaching is more compatible with the life of an intercounty player, Comer knows from experience after working at a hard labouring trade such as plumbing.
Up and down ladders
“I took a year out and went plumbing with my father, who is a plumber. I’d debated going into it, and I just saw that working on a site is not sustainable as an intercounty footballer. Because you might be up and down ladders, on your knees, might be on a kango all day, then you have to go training, your back is sore or whatever, and compared to someone sitting in an office chair all day, there’s some difference.
“But I don’t know would I have gone into plumbing full-time anyway. I had choices, but based it around football, pretty much. I looked at physio as well, but you would have been up in Dublin for two years; wouldn’t have been ideal for football. But before I started playing for Galway I looked at the teaching side, and maybe a bit of PE as well, and I’m happy at the moment.”