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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

'Winning is a habit' - How Micheál Donoghue's approach is getting the best out of Galway

The Galway boss has expertly managed celebrations and expectations.

EIGHT DAYS AGO, Tipperary fell to a shock defeat to Cork in the Munster quarter-final.

It was a second straight loss for the Premier County and for the first time in 2017, they were no longer the favourites to win the All-Ireland.

Michael Donoghue Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Galway, who gave the mother and father of beatings to Michael Ryan’s side in the league final, leapfrogged them in the pecking order.

It is often said that as a county Tipperary don’t handle winning well. They last retained the All-Ireland back in 1965. Six times since, they’ve tried and failed to defend the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

In the same period, Kilkenny have retained the title nine times. Even Galway managed to string together back-to-back All-Irelands in 1987 and 1988.

No sooner had Brian Gavin’s whistle crowned Tipperary All-Ireland champions last September, and they started making noises about doing the two in-a-row.

Ryan swore the winter would be different. He said he would root out any of “that typical Tipperary softness” which destroyed their last unsuccessful title defence six years ago.

Michael Ryan celebrates Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Ryan did his best to minimise the celebrations. An orderly schedule was put together to bring the cup around to the schools. RTÉ wanted some players and the MacCarthy Cup to make an appearance on The Late Late Show, but it was declined.

Ryan’s attempts to avoid extravagant celebrations and expectations appeared to be working like a treat. Then their season was derailed with successive defeats to Galway and Cork.

Of course, they may yet retain the All-Ireland this year, But their recent form raises an interesting question: Did Tipp spook themselves by being overly cautious over the winter?

“In Tipperary, the minute they win one All-Ireland they seem to start talking about back-to-back All-Irelands,” John Gardiner wrote in his The42 column last week. ”That puts pressure on the players straight away.”

After Galway big win over Tipp in the league final, they had a homecoming with supporters at the St Thomas’ club.

Galway fans celebrate the opening goal Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The gathering drew some criticism. Why would a county chasing its first All-Ireland since 1988 hold such an event after a league success in April?

“In days when managers are so paranoid about a player saying the wrong thing or providing a quote that the opposition may interpret as a slight, it’s ironic that this group should allow themselves receive a league homecoming, be it of any size and no matter how good the intentions were,” John Fogarty wrote in the Irish Examiner.

“But the way they have dealt with this league triumph suggests they may not yet be prepared to handle the expectation that will inevitably precede an All-Ireland tilt.”

When he was asked about the homecoming at the Leinster SHC launch earlier this month, Galway manager Micheál Donoghue was adamant it was the right thing to do.

“Look, we came back to Gort, we went to St Thomas’ which was the club of our captain, we went back there for half an hour where there was a lot of young lads,” he said.

Fans celebrate with Galway captain David Burke and the Division 1 trophy Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“If people want to criticise us for doing that, that’s fair enough. We’re in this game to try to promote it as much as we can and we were happy to do that with the St Thomas’ club.

“Our preparations started again the following night so it had no bearing on anything at all.”

Donoghue failed to see how a homecoming would relate to their ability to win an All-Ireland.

And while Galway have been playing free-wheeling expressive hurling this year, Tipperary may have been hampered by the added pressure they placed on themselves.

Galway blitzed Dublin in Tullamore yesterday and Donoghue’s approach looks like it has struck a cord with his players. He takes no heed of the outside noise.

“Winning is a habit,” he said after the game yesterday. “We’ve done well in the last few games. We just keep going. That’s the nature of the beast.

“The league was a chapter closed. The championship was always going to be something different. We said right throughout the league that this was our main focus. This was our first step in the Leinster championship. Three weeks to semi-final.

“Delighted with the win but we’ll come away with a look of work-ons for the next day.”

Micheál Donoghue Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Donoghue has put his faith in youth and clearly knows his best team.

He freshened up the squad over the winter, leaving five long-serving off his panel for the 2017 season. That included ex-captains David Collins, Fergal Moore and Andy Smith, along with other experienced performers in Cyril Donnellan and Iarla Tannian.

The Daithi Burke-Gearoid McInerney axis in defence looks extremely solid, while Joe Canning’s permanent positioning at centre-forward has been a masterstroke.

Galway also possess the most frightening full-forward line in hurling. Conor Whelan, Jason Flynn and Conor Cooney have scored 5-20 between them in their last three games.

And like the Dublin footballers, the subs enter the fray eager to impress and stake a claim for a starting place.

Niall Burke with Shane Barrett Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Three Galway subs – Niall Burke, Thomas Monaghan and Eanna Burke – scored four points between them after the 65th minute.

“There was a bit of fluency in our game and heads up hurling which was good,” said Aidan Harte. “The second half did kill it really, but we still had to see the game out. Thankfully we did.

“It was very sad to see Paul Killeen there going off because I suppose other people wouldn’t see it, but we are aware of the effort Paul Killeen has put in since last November.

“Hopefully it isn’t as bad as first feared, we had John Hanbury to come on, other guys that come to mind like Tom Monaghan and Eanna Burke tried really hard when they came on. Apart from their scores their block downs and hooks were very important.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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