June 21, 1991
Galway's Val Daly
In a class of his own
by John Mclntrye
Galway's longest serving footballer Val Daly is a realist. There are no sweeping predictions about this year's Connacht championship, no bold forecasts of a major Galway revival, no wild assertions that he and his teammates can end the county's famine at All-lreland level which now stretches back to 1966.
Daly has seen promise too often turn to despair over the past decade. He knows only too well that the present Galway team has still to prove itself. They haven't won a Connacht senior title since 1987 and supporters have deserted the team in their thousands. Last year in Tuam, Mayo fans outnumbered the host county's by over two to one.
Yet, Daly remains hopeful that Galway are not too far away from a breakthrough. He was encouraged by the team's championship form last year and they finally escaped from the outbacks of Division Three football in the recent National League campaign. But he knows the real test comes against Mayo in Castlebar on Sunday.
The Mountbellew man, who made his debut with the county side in the 1981 National League, has served under five different team managers - Tony Regan, Mattie McDonagh, Cyril Dunne, Billy Joyce and the present supremo John Tobin. Daly admits such regular upheaval at sideline level hasn't helped Galway's cause.
"It's the way things are at present. A team manager gets two years to achieve success and if he doesn't deliver he pays the penalty. This lack of continuity has been a problem but it is the same with all the other counties striving for success. We are not unique."
A current All-Star, Daly has five Connacht senior championships to his credit but there have been many disappointments too, especially the 1983 All-lreland final debacle against Dublin when (Galway failed to put the 12 man Leinster champions away in a bruising encounter.
Daly, however, is inclined to ignore the past. 'This present Galway team will make or break itself. We can't be looking over our shoulder towards the past. It serves no great value. This team will have to make its own tradition."
The Galway centre forward is looking no further than the Connacht semi final. "We have always had great battles with Mayo and I expect Sunday's match to be no different. It will be hell for leather from the start and I am hopeful that we will pull through."
28 year old Daly has a healthy respect for present team manager John Tobin. "He is doing a fine job and if we don't achieve the ultimate under him, I believe Galway will be a better team after him. He gives everybody a fair chance provided they are fair to themselves."
The star of last year's provincial final against Roscommon, Daly believes that the Connacht counties are now only catching on to what it takes to get to the top. "The role of team manager, for instance, was well developed in the other provinces before the Western teams introduced the position."
Daly insists that Sunday's clash with Mayo will be the real test of Galway's progress. "We are going in the right direction, have trained hard and there is a great hunger among the players. Mayo are always a tough proposition in Castlebar and we will have to be at our best to take them."
Salthill's qualification for last year's All-lreland club final was, perhaps, another sign to the outside counties that Galway football may at long last be coming out of the doldrums and, Daly is the first to acknowledge that the city club's displays have raised morale within the county camp.
In relation to his own future, Daly is keeping his options open. "I see myself continuing for a few more years but, of course, a lot will depend on results. I enjoy the game and some of my best friends are involved with football."
Val Daly has clearly not given up the ghost on winning an All-lreland senior medal but there seems a real danger that he will join the list of great footballers to miss out on the code's ultimate honour- for the feeling in Galway is that while they may take care of Mayo and anything else in Connacht, they are simply not strong enough to match the Dublins. Meaths and Corks of Gaelic football. Time will tell.
Taken from Hogan Stand
21st June 1991
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