Galway’s modern day position in the hurling hierarchy conflicts with the fact that it has been 28 long years since Liam McCarthy last made a visit to the west.
They have what seems to be a winning formula of top notch player pedigree, significant financial investment and the implementation of key structures and personnel, not to mention a dedicated and passionate following.
Despite this, it hasn’t meant the men from the west getting their hands on the ultimate prize in hurling. This year, however, could be the turning point for the Tribesmen due to three factors in particular.
3. They’re More Proactive And Clinical In Their Approach
Their drive and ambition have been called into question on more than one occasion.Their lack of ‘consistency’, the beloved buzz word of certain GAA pundits, has plagued the reputation of this group for a very long time.
Not long after Galway’s 2015 campaign came to a close, it was made public by the players that they did not wish to be led by Anthony Cunningham and his backroom staff going forward into the 2016 campaign. This announcement was followed by a shit storm of epic proportions where the players were accused of being spoiled, ungrateful and arrogant. This is a group of players who, in the eyes of the GAA public, can’t do right for doing wrong.
Their belief that they could do better without the St. Thomas man at the helm was disputed by some and laughed at by many. We’ve seen the exact same thing from Galway year after year, making it to a certain point but not being able to finish things out when it really mattered. Instead of sitting patiently for another year the players took it upon themselves to identify what they saw as factors potentially inhibiting All-Ireland success and they reacted to it.
In doing this they made a clear statement that moral victories just won’t cut it anymore and they continue to preach the same sentiment this year. Some will call the Johnny Glynn move crazy, but it’s evidence of their steely determination to finally reach their potential. If multiple transatlantic flights to and from New York for a fellow tribesman will be helpful in assisting with the championship cause, then that’s exactly what is going to happen.
You don’t invest in transportation of that scale unless they themselves have a true belief that their over the top efforts are likely to pay dividends.
2. They’re Operating In A Less Pressurised Environment
It’s fair to say no other team felt the same intense pressure heading into the 2016 campaign as Galway last year. The players had expressed their reasons for a managerial mix-up, but would they be able to justify their decision out on the pitch. Spectators were also eager to see what Micháel Donoghue would be able to do for Galway hurling that could distinguish him from his predecessor. Now that the dust has settled, a year on, he can concentrate solely on his managerial duties.
Now that the dust has settled, one year on he can concentrate solely on his managerial duties. Of course, Galway hurling fans were disappointed with the team’s demotion to Division 1B of the League but this was well and truly cancelled out when they championed the tournament outright and they now approach the championship as winners.
They are happy to be out of the spotlight this year with the focus now on Kilkenny, to see how they will react to last year’s defeat to Tipperary, leaving Galway with ample opportunity to go about their business discreetly.
Timing, they say, is of the essence and this year they have more of it to spare. Anyone who was expecting miracles from Galway in 2016 were always going to be left disappointed. Micháel Donoghue was named manager in late December and had his first game in charge in the Walsh cup in early January. The League followed in quick succession and from there you quickly roll over into championship proceedings.
He had a tough task on his hands, not only because of the theatrics that led to his appointment but also because of how late he was made aware of his new position. Donoghue, fresh to the senior inter-county set-up last season, had very little scope to bed in ideas and improve structures but the same time constraints won’t stand in his way this time round.
This is also a team who have proven that they are a fully functioning unit who don’t depend on one man with 1 to 15 all prepared to step up. The gap is narrowing for Galway and 2017 could be a year to remember.
Sinead Kehoe, Pundit Arena