By Paul O'Neill
Emer Flaherty reckons Galway's push to get back to the top in ladies football is being boosted by their dominance of the All-Ireland Minor Championship.
It is 10 years since Galway claimed their one and only senior All-Ireland but hopes are high in the county that they will add a second before too long.
That optimism has been helped by the success of the county's minor team in retaining their All-Ireland title earlier this month.
Four players – Olivia Divilly, Megan Glynn and twins Louise and Nicola Ward – were part of both minor wins and are also colleagues of Flaherty in the Galway senior squad.
And defender Flaherty, who starred for Galway in their breakthrough All-Ireland triumph at senior level, believes they are benefiting from the brilliant achievements of the minors.
Flaherty declared: "What the minors have done has been tremendous and I feel it has had a positive impact on things in the senior squad, where some of them are also involved.
"They are hugely talented and have also shown great composure for players who are so young and still quite new to the senior grade.
"Also they have got the taste of winning All-Irelands and that can only be good for the seniors. When we won the All-Ireland in 2004, several of us already had All-Ireland minor medals and that did not do us any harm.
"Now hopefully the same can happen and we can go on to get our hands on the main prize in the game before too long."
Galway are still in the hunt for the TG4 All-Ireland Championship this season and will face Dublin in a semi-final on Saturday.
With a 100 per cent record in all competitions this term, Galway are certainly not short of confidence. Yet their championship campaign could have been significantly disrupted by the dramatic departure of boss Barry Downey for personal reasons following the end of the National League.
The vacancy was subsequently filled by selector Kevin Reidy and Flaherty admits that helped to minimise the upheaval at such an important stage of the season.
"It could have been quite a difficult time for us with the change of manager in the run-up to our first championship game but thankfully it was not too bad," she said.
"Obviously Kevin knew the players and we were familiar with him and that made it a lot easier.
"We were able to largely keep doing things as we had under Barry and the results have continued to go well for us too."
Galway booked their place in the last four with a defeat of Monaghan. It was Galway's first competitive outing in 48 days and, at times, it showed as they struggled to produce their best form.
But Flaherty is confident the game will stand to the Connacht champions as they prepare to meet the Dubs at Mullingar.
Flaherty recalled: "We were a bit ring-rusty against Monaghan and found it hard to get going – especially at the beginning of each half.
"However we managed to adjust and were delighted to do enough to get the win. The game should do us good in terms of sharpening us up but we realise we must play to our potential for the full 60 minutes if we are to possibly get the better of Dublin.
"They have had a terrific season, especially in the championship, where they have enjoyed some wins by very big margins so it promises to be a massive test for us."
The Dublin game is set to be played just seven days after both sides were involved in quarter-final action.
But the other tie in the last four, between Armagh and Cork, is not due to go ahead until September 6, which will be three weeks since the teams’ previous outing in the Championship.
But Flaherty is not complaining about the relatively short break between Galway's clashes with Monaghan and Dublin.
She said: "A lot of other sides would gladly swap places with us to be still in the vhampionship so we cannot give out too much about the schedule.
"Our semi-final probably would have been on next week instead but the Armagh-Cork tie had to go in there because Cork have some dual players who are facing an All-Ireland Camogie semi-final replay against Wexford this Saturday.
"Still, we are not at any disadvantage because Dublin played Kerry in the quarter-finals on the same day that we met Monaghan."
The game, though, could come too early for Galway's Sinéad Burke after she was forced off against Monaghan with an ankle injury.
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship semi-final
Dublin v Galway, Mullingar, 3.15, Saturday 30 August.