It’s a sign of the rocky road that Galway footballers have gone down in the past decade or more that when Pádraic Joyce came through the door a few months ago Gary O’Donnell was greeting his sixth manager since he joined the squad.
The Tuam Stars player, who grew up in the hurling heartland of Gort in south Galway, before joining his first cousin Ja Fallon with the county’s most successful club, joined the squad back in 2018.
Since then he has played under Liam Sammon, Tomás Ó Flatharta, Joe Kernan, Alan Mulholland, Kevin Walsh and now Joyce, so he’s seen a fair bit of coming and going in that time.
The 32-year old is as hungry as ever and said there is a great vibe in the camp, with a lot of players having through in the past few years and making competition for places quite keen.
“It’s quite positive. There’s a pep in a lot of people’s steps but we’re keeping our feet firmly on the ground. We’re always looking at areas we need to improve on regardless of the result and what we’re doing well.
“There are big numbers on the panel, there’s huge competition for places. Very few injuries actually at the moment, which is great, so getting on the 26 is a challenge, never mind make the starting line-up.
“We’re reminding ourselves too that we’re only four league games into the campaign and it’s still only February, so there’s a long way to go yet,” said O’Donnell.
Galway’s opening three games, wins over Monaghan and Donegal and a loss to Kerry, were all decided by a point but they cut loose against 13-man Tyrone last weekend to score a record 2-25 to 0-12 win.
“You definitely couldn’t have seen that leading into the game. Nobody wouldn have predicted that. We were saying in the lead-up to this game that our three previous games before that we could have easily come out with nothing as well as winning all three of them.
“But we realised we were creating a lot of chances in games. We probably felt we weren’t putting on the scores that merited that.
“Training and our video analysis leading into this game was all about being a bit more clinical, better concentration, focusing on the game for the 70-plus minutes and so on. It’s encouraging and it’s rewarding too when things come right from you on the day. Previous games, like we mentioned, we could easily have come out with nothing and that was the talk leading into this game that the margins in Division 1, if you’re off any day, you’re going to be punished.”
He said they would be on their guard heading to Navan on Sunday to take on a Meath side still looking for their first win but O’Donnell is taking nothing for granted in this top versus bottom clash.
“Any time we played Meath, to be fair to them I know result haven’t been going well for them, it’s been tit-for-tat with a point or two between us any of the games. We played them in Division 2 for a number of years.
“They’re going to be fighting for their lives up there. We know that. We’ve a target on our back I suppose after the first three or four games now as well, so we need to respond to that now. It’s great the management are setting us challenges, a lot of lads are putting their hands up for selection as well too. So far so good but, like I said, everyone is keeping their feet firmly on the ground.”