Ulster trio earn praise ahead of major tests
Three Ulstermen have their sights firmly fixed on Championship success - but not within their own province.
Instead Paddy Tally, Tony McEntee and Stephen Corey share a towering hunger to see the names of their respective teams go up in lights in the west of Ireland as they target glory in the Connacht championship, their ambitions further fuelled by glowing weekend tributes.
While Galway skipper Damien Comer lauded Tyrone native Tally's "massive input" since becoming manager Kevin Walsh's able lieutenant at the start of the year, Mayo manager Stephen Roachford has reiterated his avowed belief that McEntee can prove an influential figure in helping to end Mayo's All-Ireland title famine that dates back to 1951.
And yesterday former Fermanagh goalkeeper and current Sligo treasurer Peter Greene took time out from basking in the sun in Portugal to highlight the impact that Stephen Corey, another Red Hand stalwart, has made since taking up the Sligo reins just a few months ago.
It is Comer's succinct assessment of Tally's considerable input into Galway's mechanism that will certainly provide much food for thought in those counties which harbour viable championship ambitions.
While Tally has already been credited with adding a ration of steel to the Tribesmen's psyche, Comer believes he has brought even more to the table.
"What Paddy has added is a bit more sharpness and directness," revealed Comer.
"Our manager Kevin Walsh has brought us to a really good place. Each year, the game plan has progressed a bit. Paddy has come in and tried to get more directness into our attacking play. He has had a massive input to date."
"No more than Keith Carr coming in as strength and conditioning coach, it is important you have a little change. Adding something to the mix each year is important."
With Galway having remained undefeated in their seven scheduled league games before bowing the knee to Dublin in the final, there is now a growing belief that they will prove a formidable force in the championship.
And they could hardly have asked for a more appetising opener than what will be a no-holds-barred contest with neighbours and rivals Mayo on Sunday May 13.
For Tony McEntee, this will be a major test of what is thought to be Mayo's vulnerable psyche just now. Mayo spokesman Paul Cunnane believes that manager Rochford's faith in McEntee is unshakeable.
"I know that Stephen has the highest regard for Tony. We have been knocking on the All-Ireland door in recent seasons but now our whole focus just has to be on Galway," insisted Cunnane.
"We all know this is a massive task, it will be a 28,000 sell-out and Tony will certainly have a key role on the touchline, you can be sure of that."
A week earlier Stephen Corey, who slipped into the Sligo hot seat without fanfare, will dip his toe into the demanding Connacht championship waters for the first time when his rejuvenated Sligo side confront what will certainly be a fired up London at the newly-renovated McGovern Park in Ruislip.
For Corey, who steered the Yeats county to safety in Division Three, this will be a seminal encounter and Peter Greene, now very much an adopted son of Sligo, is adamant that the Tyrone man's motivational skills and tactical nous will come to the fore even more in the championship.
"Stephen has already shown his man-management technique and over the last couple of matches in the league he tightened up our defensive strategy," explained Greene.
"He is revealing great commitment and I just know that he will get the best out of these Sligo lads. He has been good for their self-belief and it's great to see pride back in the jersey."