Galway’s meanest defensive record partly down to Paddy Tally
Coach has been successful in his native Tyrone and with Down and St Mary’s in the past
Paddy Tally has made an instant impact in Galway. Photograph: Inpho
It could be entirely coincidental that the addition of Paddy Tally to the Galway backroom team has got them contesting a first Allianz Football League final in 12 years, with the meanest defensive record in Division One, conceding a single goal in seven matches.
And if Galway do beat Dublin in Sunday’s showdown in Croke Park, to win a first title since 1981, it would be unfair to place too much emphasis on Tally’s role in achieving that. Only there’s no denying he’s made a difference.
It was last December when Galway manager Kevin Walsh added Tally to his backroom team: it didn’t cause much stir, even though Tally came with some considerable credentials, firstly when working in his native Tyrone alongside Mickey Harte during their breakthrough All-Ireland season of 2003.
After that Tally worked with Down manager James McCartan when they reached the 2010 All-Ireland final, and last year helped guide St Mary’s College, Belfast to the Sigerson Cup, beating UCD in one of the biggest upsets of 2017.
Still, expectations in Galway were modest as they returned to Division One for the first time in eight seasons: seven games later, they’ve reached Sunday’s final as the only unbeaten team, conceding a mere 1-80, only Monaghan managing a goal against them in round five; while Dublin, Kerry, Tyrone etc were all held without conceding one. Up front they haven’t been bad either, scoring 4-94.
No wonder the Galway backs and forwards are singling out Tally for some praise. Shane Walsh, their second highest scorer this season with his 0-16, points to the fresh voice alongside the manager’s and his selectors Sean Conlon and Brian Silke, who have all stayed together since taking over Galway in 2015.
“He (Paddy) is a different voice, mainly, in the dressing-room,” says Walsh. “We had the same set-up for last three years, so a different voice is good. And Paddy brings his own experience, he has been around the block a while, right back to Tyrone in 2003 when they won their first All-Ireland.
“And I get on very well with him. He brings a professional approach. It’s not like we have been lacking it, but it is a professional approach from a different mind. He just moves the group on, to get us a bit of the way to where we think we should be, and Paddy is helping us along that way.”
Walsh also heaps praise on the entire management, and their patience in instilling a new style of play, including his own.
“It’s like anything, if you get a new manager in, and they are trying to bring a new structure to the team, it takes time. I know Kevin is there four years now and we are starting to gain the understanding as we go along. The first year of playing the tides were turning with some lads leaving and some coming and it took those first few years to get the group together. And build on that, try and get the process for that and get something that everyone knows what they are doing.
“It’s not always easy because it takes time for players to adapt and I was probably one of the biggest ones in terms of that, because I was maybe a bit more free flowing before. Some would say that’s good for you but I’d prefer to be part of a solid structure that is in place for years to come so young lads coming through and know exactly what is expected rather than having a free for all.
“I still think we are adapting. The results are saying this is a great system but we are still learning and when we train after games we are always looking at things that need improving. I know doing well in Division One puts that pressure on us, but it is a young group, everyone is loving where we’re at, and we are just looking forward to everything that is thrown at us.”
Walsh also admits that any expectation on what they might achieve in Division One this season had to be tempered with their issues of inconsistency in their past.
“We sporadically played Division One teams in the last couple of years, normally towards the end of championship and we have fallen away against them. The big thing this year was to be competitive. In Division Two games last year it was always going to the wire and we got promoted and it was great to do it on the back of winning six of seven games and it gave us great momentum going into championship. In Division One it was all about the first game that game against Tyrone at home, we tried to make our home games a fortress with every other team doing the same.”
They proved that against Dublin in Pearse Stadium last Sunday week, coming back on to draw level: Sunday’s final test however is a different proposition.
“It (Croke Park) is considered their home ground at this stage. It will be our first time in a Division One final as a group and we are playing the All-Ireland champions in Croke Park.
“But we can only concentrate on ourselves really, we can’t be worrying about Dublin. You often see teams going out to play Dublin and they are beat before they go out. We won’t be looking at what Dublin can do. We have seen it before, we are long enough watching them on television to know what they can do to teams. We are just concentrating ourselves, getting our own performance right.”
And there’s no denying Paddy Tally has played a part in that.
PATHS TO THE FINAL
Dublin 2-17 Kildare 2-10
Dublin 2-13 Tyrone 1-11
Dublin 0-20 Donegal 0-15
Dublin 2-10 Mayo 0-12
Dublin 2-17 Kerry 0-11
Dublin 0-13 Galway 0-13
Monaghan 2-12 Dublin 0-17
Galway 1-9 Tyrone 0-8
Galway 1-12 Donegal 0-14
Galway 1-13 Mayo 0-11
Galway 1-14 Kerry 0-14
Galway 0-17 Monaghan 1-10
Galway 0-13 Dublin 0-13
Galway 0-16 Kildare 0-10