Anything less than All-Ireland glory for the Galway footballers in 2020 “will be seen as an underachievement”, new manager Padraic Joyce has insisted.
Joyce, who succeeded former teammate Kevin Walsh in the Galway hot seat last month, has admitted that he will view his first season in charge as a disappointment if it does not end with Galway climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand to collect Sam Maguire.
It will be 19 years next summer since the All-Ireland football title last travelled west, a final win Joyce starred in when kicking 0-10.
That 2001 victory also stands as the county’s most recent All-Ireland final appearance. Indeed, Galway’s success in reaching the last four of the championship in 2018 bridged a 17-year gap to the last occasion the county had made it as far as the semis.
But Joyce, who has John Divilly, John Concannon, Michéal Ó Domhnaill, and Mike Comer (S&C) in his backroom team, has said their target for 2020 is to be top of the football pile.
“A successful year one would be to start off by winning the FBD league, go on and win the national league, and then win the All-Ireland. That is our aim,” Joyce told Galway Bay FM on Monday evening in what was his first interview since taking the reins.
“That is what we are aiming for straightaway. That might sound far-fetched to a lot of people. I am not saying we are going to win the All-Ireland in two years time or three years or we are training for two years time.
“We are training for August 30 next year. That is when the All-Ireland final is on. If we don't do that, I will see it as disappointment.
He expects their Division 1 league campaign to reveal plenty about his players.
“Our lads have to give [the supporters] reason to go to the games and to purchase season tickets. We have four league games at home and I expect huge crowds at those league games.
“That will tell me whether our lads can handle the pressure of big crowds and big games, are they good enough and are they up to the level.”
Joyce said the ongoing controversy surrounding the county’s finances and the very public row between sponsors Supermac's and the board did not dissuade him from seeking the position of football manager. He is confident the impasse between the board and Pat McDonagh will be resolved.
“There is a lot of publicity out there about different stuff. That stuff that happened had nothing got to do with Padraic Joyce and nothing got to do with Galway football.
“A lot of that stuff happened two and three years ago and had nothing got to do with the current players. All I care about are the players, really.
“There are different rows going on with sponsors but that is for the county board to sort out with the sponsors. And they will sort that out.
“Pat McDonagh is a good man and the county board I’ve been dealing with, I see them as good people. They’ve been very warm to me.
“Yes, the process for interviewing candidates did drag on a lot, a bit longer than anticipated with regards getting candidates names in from the clubs. A lot of counties would have been back training at that stage and we were looking for a manager. We were the second last county to get a manager.
“The bad publicity at the minute is going to get better. The off season is in now so we have nothing else to talk about.”
The new manager was adamant his predecessor has left Galway football in a "great place" and while Walsh was heavily criticised for the defensive approach he favoured, Joyce ruled out a return to all-out attacking football.
“Football has changed a lot, but, deep down, it hasn’t changed a whole lot. No doubt it has [got complicated] over the years with defensive systems. You, as a manager, have to work around that, but, at the end of the day, you still have to get your 2-16, 1-17 to win games.
“That’s what we’ll be training towards and aiming for. You obviously have to keep it out the far side as well. We can’t go back to the Galácticos in Madrid where you score four, we’ll score five.
“A lot of the foot has gone out of football. As a forward, you want to see the ball in early. That is something we are going to try and improve on. If it is slow coming in, there are going to be more bodies back there. On the football pitch, nothing travels faster than the ball.”
Joyce continued: “I am thankful that Kevin has left us in Division 1 and that I am taking over a team that is on the up. There shouldn’t be a bad word said about Kevin Walsh.”
The three-time All-Star, who took his first steps into inter-county management when overseeing the U20s this season, is hopeful a development panel can be established to ensure none of those players are lost to the system in the event that they do not make the jump to the senior panel straightaway.
“We need to keep them in some element of development. The U20 manager will be appointed in the next couple of weeks. We will all work in harness so that players are developed and looked after. That is a pathway that is developing very well and I want to keep developing that.
“We came in last year and I was a little bit shocked at the skill level that some lads were coming into me at 20 years of age. Can you kick the ball 30, 40 yards, with both feet, accurately. A lot of lads couldn’t, to be honest.”