Appetite for work keeps Galway captain Damien Comer on track
Full-forward leads Galway to substantial league win over Mayo on Sunday
Mayo’s David Clarke with Galway captain Damien Comer in the Allianz Football League Division One match at Pearse Stadium, Galway on Sunday. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
As the college-versus-county debate continues, Galway captain Damien Comer is one of those players whose resources are being taxed to the limit by the calendar. But don’t expect any grumbles: the full-forward is revelling in the demands of the early season. After leading Galway to another substantial league win on Sunday, Comer was already starting to think of a midweek assignment with NUIG.
“The body has got a fair old going in the last few weeks. I am feeling like a soccer player in that you have a game on the weekend and a game midweek.”
But Comer feels the workload is manageable because the mentors in both squads are mindful of just how hectic this period of the season is for inter-county students. Galway manager Kevin Walsh and strength coach Keith Carr have made allowances for the college commitments of the students in their squad. Similarly, Maurice Sheridan, his NUIG manager, has tailored a programme with the county commitments in mind.
“We are not training much between both teams – we are just playing the game and making sure we get the recovery. This time of year it’s very easy to pick up injuries with the ground heavy and a lot of games. You just have to mind your body. That is what is keeping you going.”
“Minding your body” is hardly the phrase that comes to the mind of anyone who has enjoyed Comer’s courageous and bruising displays with Galway. The target man has become a heavily-guarded player and has been central to his team’s impressive return to Division One. In all three games against Tyrone, Donegal and Mayo, Comer’s full-forward presence gave the team an early presence on the scoreboard.
His appetite for work, covering back and tackling, is boundless. Galway’s collective hunger was the defining characteristic of Sunday’s win against neighbours Mayo. It was a highly economic league performance for Galway, who defended in numbers and then counter-attacked with intent, pace and accuracy. They established a lead through Barry McHugh’s brilliantly taken first-half goal and never relinquished it.
“Going in at half-time, we were two up, but we knew there was going to be a backlash from Mayo out there,” said Comer. “Thankfully the lads stuck to their guns. We had runners come off shoulders at the right times. Important scores: every time they got a score we kicked on with one more. Won a few vital frees in the second half. Playing against a breeze like that, it’s important if you can keep popping over a few points, keep ticking so it’s demoralising for the opposition.
“And there is a great bond; there is a great friendship between the lads. There are a lot of young lads coming through. For the more seasoned campaigners it’s up to us to try and put an arm around them, put them in under our wing, and get them used to the system and the way we play. Thankfully the likes of Sean Kelly and Seán Andy Ó Ceallaigh, they have fitted in like gloves. They have slotted in as if they were seasoned campaigners, and long may that continue.”
By the final whistle, the atmosphere provided a greater talking point than the result. Mayo’s challenge petered out over the last quarter and during 10 infernal minutes of injury time, both teams couldn’t disguise their dislike for one another. Familiarity breeds edginess. These teams know each other well. At one point, Mayo goalkeeper David Clarke and Galway forward Sean Armstrong and his marker, all isolated at the far side of the field, were the only players not sucked into a kind of mass pulling-and-dragging mess which seemed to have five or six flash points. Everyone agreed it was disgraceful. The crowd loved it.
“Galway and Mayo is always going to have its own bit of spark,” acknowledged Comer. “It was evident there in the second half. It’s a bit of handbags stuff. It’s the fact that everyone had an eye on May 13th. They were all looking forward to that and no one wanted to give a backwards step and that led to the bit of argy-bargy. We are delighted with our win. We have three from three from three now but it’s on to the next one.
“We need to keep our feet firmly on the ground. It was a tough old battle with our neighbours. Three from three, coming up from Division Two, not many would have expected us to be getting one win never mind three in a row. A lot would have expected us maybe to go down. But we are showing that bit of consistency. We are looking every day we go out to put in a performance. Thankfully we have done that in the last three games and hopefully we can continue it on.”