By Tom Molloy
At the time of writing, the Galway County Board have still failed to appoint a new senior hurling manager, following the departure of Micheál Donoghue in August.
For a lot of people in the area of County Galway east of Moycullen, south of Turloughmore, and south of the Galway-Dublin railway line as far as Ballinasloe; hurling (and “the parish”) is as important as the local Credit Union. Former Galway boss and proud Clare man, Ger Loughnane, told a story about giving a team talk to his county players before a challenge match against the then All-Ireland Club champions Portumna in 2007. “Let’s beat these Tipperary b*stards!” came the roar from one of his troops. Loughnane knew as early as then that perhaps he had ventured too far up the Congo (his “Congo” being the Ennis to Gort road).
Galway’s underage record in hurling is second to none. Thirteen minor titles since 1983 and ten U-21 titles in the forty years between 1972 and 2011. Galway clubs, again, sit atop the roll of honour in All-Ireland club titles with thirteen. Four for Portumna, three for Athenry, two for Sarsfields, and one each for St. Thomas’, Clarinbridge, Kiltormer, and Castlegar.
Their inability to translate underage and club success to success at senior level had long been an issue in the county. Some commentators attributed it to local bitterness and a “club before county” attitude. It was thought that Donoghue had sounded the steam whistle and halted the arrows when he and his players delivered the All-Ireland in 2017. Not taking anything away, of course, from the trojan work Anthony Cunningham had done before him. It seemed there was finally a sense of stability around Galway hurling.
The current Galway senior panel would walk on to most county teams. Galway have the best full-back in the country in Daithí Burke, David Burke is an understated gift to hurling, Conor Whelan will still only be 23 when the next Championship rolls around, and a fully fit Joe Canning is the best hurler in Ireland. That’s even before you begin to talk about the Mannion’s and an in-form Conor Cooney.
Being in charge of a county with that kind of pedigree and that panel must be a dream for any hurling aficionado from Liam Mellows to Cuala and from Slaughtneil to Blackrock. So, where’s the problem? Davy Fitz said no one spoke to him and will stay in Wexford, Tony Ward withdrew his candidacy earlier this week, and Donoghue’s associates Noel Larkin and Franny Forde followed suit the next day. Maybe the job isn’t as attractive as it seems.
There’s a cloud hanging over the County Board at present in relation to sponsorship money. There is, most definitely, an issue with transparency. One wonders who, if anybody, they have in mind. Or, like a thrice-married curmudgeon, are they finally asking themselves, “are we the problem?” Probably not. The supporters deserve better and, more importantly, the players deserve better. It’s time someone fixed their steamboat and headed up the Congo once again or next July we’ll all be found whimpering “the horror, the horror”.