It’s difficult to know where Galway and deflated Shefflin go from here

Inside Track with John McIntyre

It’s early January 2022 and the crowds are descending on Duggan Park for just a tournament fixture. An estimated 3,000 were in Ballinasloe that afternoon to see Henry Shefflin make his sideline debut as Galway hurling manager in the Walsh Cup. The buzz around the ground was unmistakable.

County Board Chairman Paul Bellew had pulled off a huge coup in attracting the Kilkenny legend west, and it immediately sparked renewed belief in Galway’s ability to compete at the highest level. Fast forward barely two and a half years, and all that hope has dissipated.

Sunday’s championship exit to Dublin was the final straw as a misfiring Galway failed to allay growing fears that they were an outfit threading water. There was no shortage of effort and David Burke’s harsh red card had a seismic effect on the outcome, but we had expected more in 2024.

Shefflin’s first season in charge had culminated with an honourable narrow loss to champions Limerick in the All-Ireland semi-final. The following Spring, Galway were being rated as the team best physically equipped to halt the Shannonsiders’ juggernaut, but the subsequent Leinster title race didn’t go to plan.

Sure, Galway got a draw with Dublin but finding themselves a dozen points behind early in the second-half shouldn’t be happening to a team with genuine All-Ireland ambitions. Still, they looked to have Kilkenny beat in the provincial final, only to concede a sickening stoppage-time winning goal to Cillian Buckley.

Galway had several opportunities to kill the game in its last play, but the necessary ruthlessness (or cynicism) wasn’t there. In the context of the team’s fortunes since, that defeat clearly left some scar tissue. Though Galway went on to overcome a moderate Tipperary outfit in the All-Ireland quarter-final, they were then wiped out by Limerick in the semi-final.

Pictured: Galway defender Padraic Mannion prepares to block Dublin’s Danny Sutcliffe during Sunday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Championship clash at Pearse Stadium. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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