By Paul O'Neill
The Galway ladies football team might have had only two competitive games over the last 15 weeks but Lorna Joyce insists they will be ready to tackle Monaghan on Saturday for a place in the All-Ireland final.
Galway rounded off their National League campaign in May when they met Kerry in the Division Two decider but since then they have played just twice in the TG4 Championship.
With only two senior sides in Connacht, Galway and Mayo contested the final where Galway came out on top.
That win handed them a place in the last eight of the All-Ireland Series and they duly despatched Tyrone there.
But despite the shortage of meaningful action for Galway since the end of the League, forward Joyce is happy they will not be found to be too rusty when they go head-to-head with Monaghan at Kingspan Breffni Park.
She said: “Having so few games is not really a big concern for us and it is something we are quite used to dealing with from other seasons.
“For example, last year we had just two Championship games behind us before we faced Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-finals. While we lost that game, we did not feel it was down to having so few games beforehand.
“Since the League final three months ago we have filled in the time around the Mayo and Tyrone ties with challenge games, training sessions and games among the squad while there have been club fixtures too.
“To be honest it has not felt like the time has dragged and we think we are prepared well for the challenge that awaits.”
“Overall we were quite pleased with how we did against Tyrone” - Lorna Joyce
And Joyce knows Monaghan – who have played just one Championship game more – promise to provide Galway with their biggest challenge so far this term.
Monaghan have stormed into the semi-finals, winning their three games by a combined total of 52 points.
Joyce, who starred for Galway when they claimed their only All-Ireland title to date in 2004, added: “There is no doubt Monaghan have been in outstanding form in the Championship and must be full of confidence.
“They have enjoyed some big victories and look to be on a mission to get back into the final and make up for having lost on each of their last two appearances at that stage over that last five years.
“Some of the Monaghan forwards are among the best in the game and they have truly shown that recently. We are bound to have our hands full throughout the 60 minutes against them.
“I know some people believe we could not have really asked for a tougher draw than Monaghan for our semi-final but I do not think you can expect any easy games when you get to this part of the Championship.
“However, rather than worry too much about the opposition, we will be trying to make sure that we get our own game right and if we can do that then we should have a decent chance of achieving the result that we want.
“Overall we were quite pleased with how we did against Tyrone with the amount of wides we had the main negative from our performance on the day.
“It is something we have been working on since then and hopefully we can make better use of scoring chances that come our way in the Monaghan game.”
Galway have a new manager this season as they look to improve on last year’s progress in the All-Ireland Championship.
Con Moynihan was replaced by Barry Downey and Joyce has been impressed with how he has fared since taking charge.
She revealed: “Barry has been excellent and I think everyone involved with the squad has liked his approach.
“He is very professional in everything he does and brought with him a wealth of experience from having coached at various levels in men's football and hurling. The players have responded well to him and I think that can be seen in our results.”
And Joyce went on: “While we have been there or thereabouts in the All-Ireland Series in recent years, we feel we have underachieved since we won the All-Ireland.
“But it looks like we are on the up more now and it is fingers crossed we can push harder for another All-Ireland over the coming few years. The county minors won the All-Ireland earlier this month and that can only help for the future as some of those players go on to feature more with the senior team.
“Last year we were quite satisfied with reaching the semi-finals and if we could manage to go a step further this time it would represent some more progress for us.”
Fixtures: Saturday: TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship semi-final: Galway v Monaghan (Kingspan Breffni Park, 4.0).