One step forward, two steps back. That just about sums up Galway hurling over the past two decades and it certainly encapsulates the journey taken under Anthony Cunningham’s tenure to date. In any event, the Tribesmen’s propensity to underperform, underwhelm and under achieve once again reared its head at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday.
If there is any consolation, at least, you could see this coming. Let’s call a spade a spade. Galway’s campaign in 2013 has been nothing less than a shambles from Walsh Cup to National League to Leinster Championship to the All-Ireland series and, yet, blind faith had us hoping that it would all fall together miraculously in the next outing.
Well, there are no more outings in 2013 and in a year when there is an All-Ireland title up for grabs – with recent winners Kilkenny and Tipperary out of the equation – Galway have failed miserably to get their house in order to challenge for the coveted prize.
Of course, the blame game begins now. Some will look for Cunningham’s head on the platter; others will muddy the names of the players, collectively or individually, fairly or unfairly; and a few will probably seek to delve deeper and surmise about unsound structures and other matters. And so, the vicious circle continues. Plenty of questions but no answers.
As for last Sunday, it was like playing that old, scratched record and the tune was as familiar to supporters of the maroon and white as the sound of the fiddle has been to Clare people. In another high profile game, Galway were flat, lacked intensity and just couldn’t get to the pitch of championship action.
Indeed, once Conor McGrath netted the Clare goal on 23 minutes, following a blistering run from Tony Kelly, it was almost a stretch of the imagination to see Galway digging themselves out of this particular hole given, traditionally, they rarely win these contests if they don’t dictate the pace from an early stage.
And pace was something that the Tribesmen were in short supply of, which was mind-boggling given this has been what Galway minor, U-21 and club hurling has been built on over the past two decades. It was what the Galway of 2012 was built on.
Yet, on Sunday, the majority of the Galway players couldn’t raise a canter and, to some extent, you would have to question what they were doing behind closed doors in the run-up to this game. Certainly, it couldn’t have been putting a game plan together because if so – and not for the first time this year – it failed utterly to materialise on the field.
In 2012, returning to this reporter’s bugbear, Galway had established an exciting and successful style of play which was complemented by a team that was balanced with the right players in the right positions. The result: An All-Ireland final appearance.
However, inconceivably, the management abandoned that line of thinking over the winter and decided they would reinvent the wheel. As a result, there was no clear cut vision for 2013 – at least, not that was apparent, not even to the players – while right throughout the campaign players were being moved from one position to the next. Consequently, few players had a clear role going forward and this manifested itself in a string of disjointed displays, this one included.
In addition, Galway entered no championship game with a settled team, underlined by the fact that goalkeeper, full-back, centre-back and midfield were all changed coming into this pivotal fixture. While changes were needed from the Dublin debacle, they had to be the right changes. The measures introduced against Clare only went halfway and hurling is a game of all or nothing.
So much so, Galway looked like a team formed out of compromise – in that if a player hadn’t nailed down one position he was inducted into another – and a case in point was the selection of Niall Burke at corner forward. It didn’t work against Dublin and it didn’t work against Clare.
That is not to say Niall Burke shouldn’t be on the team. The Oranmore/Maree man, although a work in progress, held down the centre forward position to great effect last year and that is where he should have featured. If Conor Cooney was going better, then he should have got the nod.
All in all, the management – and we keep saying ‘management’ because that is what the Cunningham, Mattie Kenny and Tom Helebert trio has been sold as – lost its edge and this was no more underlined in the opening half against Clare.
That said, Anthony Cunningham, who is an honourable, decent and knowledgeable man, should be the manager in 2014 – underlining the word ‘manager’. Hurling is not a democracy and the three-pronged management approach has run its course.
The running joke in the county over the last number of months has been ‘who is the manager?’ and that has unjustly undermined Cunningham’s position and sent out mixed messages to all concerned, fuelling uncertainty. No more than the players in the panel, roles have to be defined and everyone works to the template.
There needs to be one voice and one vision – as was evident in 2012 – and not over-complicating structures, the style of play and everything else. Yes, have a game plan – that’s an integral part of the modern game – but remember the key to hurling is grounded in its simplistic and fuelled by an insatiable work-rate, hunger and desire.
That’s nothing we have not alluded to before. Hopefully, someday, the penny will finally drop.
For a detailed match report and further reaction an analysis see this week’s Sentinel or Connacht Tribune
Galway’s U20s aim to halt Cork’s All-Ireland hurling treble in its tracks
THE Rebels are on the march and have a clean sweep of the senior, U20 and minor All-Ireland hurling titles in their sights – but Galway U20s have the opportunity of stopping resurgent Cork’s treble quest in the first of those deciders at Semple Stadium on Tuesday (7.30pm).
Jeffrey Lynskey’s charges gained revenge on Dublin in the recent Leinster Final and will be seeking the county’s first title at this level since 2011.
Galway are the outsiders to carry the day, but will be looking to the likes of team captain Seán Neary, Ian McGlynn, Seán McDonagh, Donal O’Shea, Oisín Flannery and John Cooney to lead the way.
Meanwhile, the county minors will also set up an All-Ireland Final against Cork if they ovecome Kilkenny in tomorrow evening’s (Friday, 7.30pm) semi-final in Thurles.
See full previews in Tribune Sport, part of 18 pages of coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now – or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie
Galway 2020 set aside cash for defamation case
Galway 2020 set aside money last year for a defamation claim that was expected to be taken against the company.
The company, set up to deliver the European Capital of Culture – which has registered as a charity – has advised that its possible liability for the claim was €1,500.
The accounts for the operating company Galway Cultural Development and Activity Company, which have just been published, give details of its ‘contingent liabilities’, which is a liability that may occur depending on the outcome of an uncertain future event.
It said: “The company’s solicitors estimates €1,500 for a defamation claim, but proceedings have not yet issued.”
Galway 2020 spent €7.38m last year, up by about €4 million on 2018. It said €6.4 million of this was for “charitable activities”.
Its wage bill was €1.5 million last year, and its employee headcount at December 31 was 41.
It spent €750,000 on promotional activities and a further €340,000 on communications. Governance costs amounted to €170,000.
It spent €65,000 on legal fees; €42,000 on consultancy; €50,000 on monitoring and evaluation; and €21,000 on Board expenses.
Galway 2020 spent just over €447,000 on ‘raising funds’, almost the same amount that it raised in ‘sponsorship income’ (€477,000).
Its income from the Department of Culture in 2019 was €5.1 million; a third of the €15m in total central government has pledged.
In his introduction to the accounts, Chairperson of the Board, Arthur Lappin, said Galway 2020 “is likely the single largest and most complex cultural undertaking ever in Ireland”.
“Like events of similar scale internationally, the necessary preparatory work in the years prior to the event itself, requires very substantial investment in order to be ready to deliver the programme.
“This includes investments in cultural organisations and individual artists as well as the associated investment in promotional strategies for the Galway 2020 programme.
“This promotional investment has rightly featured Galway as a unique tourist destination for visitors to Galway in 2020 and was a significant factor in Galway being recognised with prestigious international awards during the year,” Mr Lappin said.
He said the organisation’s activities “directly supports approximately 350 artists and 300 businesses within the local and domestic economy”.
Mr Lappin added that the impact of coronavirus on Galway 2020, including widespread cancellation of events, would be reflected in its 2020 accounts, which will be published next October.
Cooney and McInerney pass on winning mentality to sons
When Galway last won back-to-back All-Ireland senior hurling titles in 1987 and 1988, Joe Cooney and Gerry McInerney and their team-mates were giants living in a world of ordinary men. There was no social media, yet they were iconic figures known the width and breadth of the country.
As former masters of the game, they still enjoy cult status. That will never change although both were more than happy to pass on the torch when the Tribesmen ended the 29-year famine for the Liam McCarthy Cup last September.
What made it even more enjoyable was that both had sons involved in that historic success – Joseph Cooney and Gearoid McInerney – as they will have again today. As they recounted earlier this week, it was, in some small way, like getting to relive those glory days again.
GMc: Ah, it was. It was mighty. There was a bit of ‘been there, done that’ and it was good to be able to give them that bit of advice. If they ask your advice, at least you might know. So, it was good.
JC: You would enjoy it a bit more when you are looking in at it rather than being caught up in it. It was even nicer because you could take it all in. And you would have relived some of the memories from our own time as well. So, we got to be both sides of the fence. It was a relief really though (last year). When we won it, I also remember it was a pure relief. You would never think at any time that you might get to tog out in an All-Ireland final at Croke Park – and win one. We were able to do that and we were awful lucky that way. That we were there ourselves and then to have the lads involved last year was great. It really was something else. Unbelievable.
SG: Times have changed since those All-Ireland victories in the 1980s – no more so than in hurling. Are you blown away with the amount of sports science going into a team’s preparation now?
JC: To a certain point, it has changed completely but, at the same time, when you hit the pitch and the ball is thrown in, it is the same. It is about the ball. You have to go and win your area, win the ball, get your scores and stop scores. It all comes down to those 70 minutes. That is the way it is. So, it hasn’t changed that way.
GMc: I suppose, whatever was going on at the time, you were going to do it. And it was different times when we were playing. You had to go with the flow. That was the way it was. It was a man’s game – and still is too. You still have to stand up for yourself and if you don’t you will be walked over. No matter what you are at now, be it hurling or life, you have to stand up for yourself every day.
SG: From your own experiences in ‘87 and ‘88, how difficult is it to put titles back-to-back?
JC: To keep yourself right for the two years was the thing. Probably, you might think you were going better than you were and you might take the foot off for a small bit but you can’t afford to do that now. I don’t think these lads are doing it now. They have been fairly consistent and they are hard to beat.
I suppose, it is hard to keep it right when you are after winning it; every team is trying to beat you and pick holes in you. So, you have to be able to stand up to that and that is the difference when you are up there. Everyone wants to knock you and it gets harder and harder and harder.
For me, though, there is a great mix in this team and you need that when you are playing. We had a good mix of players and these guys seem to be the same as well. Also, when you are after winning one, you will get it into your head too that you are harder to beat. That is the way these lads are now and we were probably the same.
SG: Do you ever feel disappointed that the three-in-a-row didn’t materialise, particularly given much of it was down to circumstances – such as the referee – outside your control?
GMc: We probably took our eye off the ball as well. We could have beaten them (Tipperary, 1989 All-Ireland semi-final) – referee and all.
JC: There was not a whole pile in that game . . .
GMc: No Joe, there was not. 1989, the refereeing was putrid but you could say the refereeing in 1990 was no better. He gave frees for nothing. But we took our eyes off the ball in 1990.
SG: You had an unbelievable first half against Cork in the 1990 All-Ireland final Joe, so for you it must have been even more disappointing?
JC: That was just how the game went. We didn’t get as many opportunities in the second half. But they were definitely two matches and two years that we left it behind us.
GMc: But this team is far more focused. They have it upstairs. They have that mental strength. There is no messing and it is tunnel vision. If we were minded like that we would have gone on and won as many titles as Kilkenny. I mean, you have to pull in the reins an odd time but, in fairness to these lads, it is very professional and very well run.
SG: Why you think you might have lost focus? Was it a West of Ireland thing?
GMc: We were always confident going up. Weren’t we Joe, in fairness? It wasn’t upstairs.
JC: No, but you have to take your chances when you are there. It doesn’t come around that often. You will get a few years and that is it. You have to do it. The last one we won was in ’88 and we were still young enough but we didn’t win one again until last year. We thought, surely to God, we would get another one before we finished. So, when you are there, you have to make the best of it.