Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Home Sport GAA

Paddy Tally role adds up for classy Galway, says Peter Canavan

Tyrone legend gives his insight and comment every week

By Peter Canavan

It struck me that when Galway ran 4-24 past Sligo in the Connacht SFC semi-final in a brilliant display of attacking football, there was no mention of Paddy Tally.

Tally's name has been mentioned time and again when the talk starts of Galway's new-found defensive solidity.

When they went through the league unbeaten with a host of sparky defensive displays, Paddy was mentioned as being the man behind their new-found organisation.

But when they ran in 4-21 from play last time out, he was scarcely mentioned.

It's like somehow people think that when Galway produced a brilliant attacking display, that has nothing to do with him. When it comes to flooding numbers behind the ball and the darker arts, we're told Paddy's fingerprints are all over them. But when it comes to the other end of the pitch, well that's just Galway being Galway. It seems he's only associated with the negative things they do.

I think if it rained in Galway on race week, some people would blame Paddy Tally.

I played with Paddy with Tyrone. He was on the 1995 panel that reached the All-Ireland final. Then, in 2003, he was part of the backroom team when we won the All-Ireland final. It's a testament to his ability as a coach and his character that he was able to go from being a team-mate of a few of us to our coach so seamlessly.

He has been in charge of the St Mary's senior team that plays in the Sigerson Cup over the last 15 years so he has extensive management experience too.

And from talking to those players and from my own experiences of working with him I can see that he's carried over many of the same traits.

His sessions were never repetitive. Even though you might be doing the same type of work, there would always be a different way of doing it.

He is a great student of the game too. He would always be up on the latest innovations in strength and conditioning and will take new things on board. He's certainly not stuck on one particular style of play.

Because of the view of him as a 'defence first' minded coach, it might surprise a few to hear Paddy was an inside forward when he was with Tyrone and not a dogged corner back. I remember he played much of his club football at centre forward. So his natural instincts when it comes to football are to create rather than destroy.

But first and foremost he's a practical man and will cut his cloth to suit the players at his disposal. It's long been known that Galway have had the forwards that are the envy of many in the country. Damien Comer and Shane Walsh are two of the most exciting players around and they have fine support acts in the likes of Eamonn Brannigan, Ian Burke, Micheal Daly and others.

But Kevin Walsh recognised that Galway needed to improve defensively and he started that process during the 2017 campaign. And last winter he saw that they needed a fresh view on things so he turned to Paddy.

When he got there he'd have known where Galway needed to improve most and that's where he'd have started. But for people to think he works purely on the defensive side or only thinks football can be played in a certain way is just either lazy or a label of convenience.

To appoint Tally took a lot of humility on Walsh's part. It would have been easy for him to persevere with the way things were going and plough on with his own ideas. But he put Galway first and they are all the better for it.

Now some would argue that he has gone too far with their system, that they play too defensively and, if anything, can inhibit the natural talent up front.

I can see that argument but the bottom line is he is getting results.

It's similar to the Donegal approach before they won the All-Ireland in 2012.

Back then, Jim McGuinness realised that he had to solidify things at the back first and make them hard to break down. It was only then that they could be more proactive in terms of their attacking game.

Remember they scored just 0-6 in an All-Ireland semi-final in 2011 but were All-Ireland champions a little over a year later. To my mind, Galway are moving along similar lines.

And while they have been brilliant this year, you feel there's still a little question mark over them because they have had a couple of 'off days' over the past few seasons.

They simply didn't show up in last year's Connacht final loss to Roscommon. The year before that they went down to a Tipperary team they were tipped to beat in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

And on Sunday they face a Roscommon side who have been planning for this game since the start of the year. When the draw was made, Kevin McStay's men could have reasonably expected to make it this far as they needed just a single win over Leitrim or New York to reach another Connacht final. They have the forwards to hurt Galway and, for me, there's still a small question mark over their consistency in the big games.

But I think Galway have shown a new maturity this year.

They beat Mayo and Sligo playing in two very different ways.

They can get down in the gutter or they can go man on man, and I expect them to be the first team to book their spot in the Super 8s.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph