‘It’s not the beautiful game anymore’

GRAB FOR POWER: Galway’s Paul Conroy tests the strength of Aidan O’Shea’s Mayo jersey in a league clash last February. The Tribesmen have become more ruthless this year. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Paul Keane

Former Galway captain Finian Hanley has admitted the All-Ireland semi-finalists had to get “cynical” this year in order to compete with the top teams.

The full-back retired last winter and said he noticed a big difference in the team’s aggression and intensity following Paddy Tally’s introduction as a coach for 2018.

Galway forward Danny Cummins admitted last December that they lacked a vital “edge” in the 2017 Connacht final and they would need to start delving into “the dark arts” to progress.

Hanley said it was evident to him from the opening round of the National League that Galway were far more ruthless this season and he immediately identified ex-Tyrone coach Tally’s influence.

“His teams are intense and they look to be the aggressors all the time,” Hanley told The Forty-Five podcast.

“From day one, we played in Tuam in the first round of the National League, I was at it, and I saw a difference in a lot of our lads, the way when they won the ball on a turnover it was get in, take the ball, rip it off the guy on the ground or whatever, ruffle him up and maybe get a reaction.

“That’s something Galway have brought to it. It’s cynical, there’s cynicism, there’s whatever you want to call it. Galway are only moving to where the best teams in the country are, and they’ve had to do that because we’ve been a nice team for so many years, playing these great games and lovely footballers and all that sort of stuff. But we had to change.”

Kildare manager Cian O’Neill raged at match officials after his team’s Super 8s defeat to Galway, claiming Daniel Flynn was provoked into striking out and receiving a red card.

A number of teams who have played Galway this year, most notably Mayo but also Tyrone in that opening league game, have had players sent off while Galway themselves had three men dismissed in their pre-season loss to Mayo.

It could lead to a sharp focus from Barry Cassidy and his team of officials on cynicism during tomorrow evening’s All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Dublin.

“Dublin do it, Kerry do it, Tyrone do it, all the top teams, we had to get up there and to do that we had to start doing stuff that everyone else is doing and try to get that bit of an edge and we’ve brought it this year,” said Hanley, the former International Rules defender.

And when we have it, the style of game that Galway are playing, when we have the edge, we’re very good. But it’s very hard to have that edge all the time and last Saturday (against Monaghan) we didn’t have any edge at all. We had no purpose. We kicked a lot of wides and we got trimmed.

Galway were traditionally renowned as stylists of the game and the All-Ireland winning teams of 1998 and 2001 that current boss Walsh played on contained some rare talents.

But Hanley says times have changed and argued it’s not the players’ fault for doing whatever it takes to win.

“Unfortunately that’s it, it’s all about winning now,” he said.

The game as a spectacle, it’s not the beautiful game anymore. That’s up to the GAA and up to the refs (to fix), it’s not up to Kevin Walsh, Jim Gavin and these guys to say, ‘Listen, let’s make it nice, let’s make it a great spectacle and do all these things’.

“Tough luck. It’s a results game for these guys.”

Galway’s new ultra-intense approach has gone hand in glove with their counter-attacking approach, a style of play that elevated them to a National League final and provincial honours.

“It’s changed, for years we were playing gung-ho, playing these classic games, losing by a point or whatever,” said Hanley.

“That’s totally changed now. During the league it was a case of a game of chess and a who blinks first kind of approach where if we can strangle the game for 40 or 50 minutes and then let it open up.

"Like, if we’re playing Kildare or Kerry or whoever, they’re coming at us in droves and we turn them over enough times, I think that’s what the blanket defence does, it bores the opposition into going, ‘Ah, just kick it, I’m just going to kick it in now because I’m bored of hand-passing over and back’.”

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