Galway 2020: Changes we can all believe in

AOIFE LANE: Galway 2020: Changes we can all believe in

Change…do any of us really like it? For most of us, operating in a steady state and developing a routine that works puts us in a comfort zone. You can get lost in that place and manipulate any minor happenings, good or bad, to return to normality.

I was told recently that if you feel different for three weeks running, you should probably do something about it. If you don’t, you adapt and accept this new state as normal, staying within your comfort zone rather than acting. All the while, ‘change’ is where growth, fun, and healing usually happens despite being slow, sometimes hard, and by its nature, disruptive and also, inevitable.

In Galway hurling this week, Micheál Donoghue stepping down as senior manager heralds a big change. The Galway hurlers sought out a new setup four years ago and have worked well in the time since.

There was an air of contentment about the group, which is always a good sign. Micheál’s commitment to developing a culture of professionalism and consistency in performance was realised and now leaves a set of players with the required growth mindset to adapt.

The progress of this squad is now conditional on the appointment of someone who can sustain and enhance the culture and subsequent performance of the group. It is a little too early to judge but comments from the county board executive that players will have no say in the process makes me wonder who will be at the forefront of the decision making.

The game is about the people who play it, and at an absolute minimum, there has to be someone at the table who has the total trust, awareness of the previous setup, and needs of the players as their main focus. The entire thing makes me look at how Tipperary hurling have gone about their business and how change was managed over the last decade.

After the 2010 success under the stewardship of Liam Sheedy, Declan Ryan took over for two years. A final appearance in 2011 and a heavy defeat at the semi-final stage in 2012 led to the departure of Ryan and a return to two central cogs in the Sheedy system.

Eamon O’Shea, a coach/selector with Sheedy, led Tipp to within an inch of an All-Ireland before Michael Ryan, another of Sheedy’s backroom, delivered an All-Ireland in 2016 in advance of the return of Sheedy and another success last Sunday.

Bar the relatively short diversion to Declan Ryan, all other management changes were consistent in terms of working in a setup that brought Tipperary their first title win for nine years in 2010, a victory made all the more special as it also halted Kilkenny’s five in a row.

It is difficult to take over from someone successful. Just look at the woes of Manchester United in recent years or consider the pressure the successor to Brian Cody will face when titles are not delivered in a timely fashion.

The All-Ireland final last weekend raised more questions about refereeing and technology, with an air of inevitability about the road ahead. Former referee Barry Kelly was interviewed on RTÉ before the game and gave an insight into the pressure of overseeing a final.

Players — and those who lead them — utilise every available support to help them be their best and it is only right that the same applies to referees.

HawkEye, though controversial last week, has been a huge step in the right direction. The next move must be towards a VAR-type system like that in use in the Premier League. It will need some tweaks and changes to rules — and mindsets — but the sport must move with the times to prosper.

There is that word ‘change’ again. Some people are still annoyed with the fact that the hurling final has gone from its traditional September date but the redrawing of the Championship schedules has created a space for the Ladies football semi-finals this weekend to get more exposure than ever before. And the changes in GAA 2019 aren’t confined to the pitches and the players.

The change with Joanne Cantwell as lead presenter of the Sunday Game, and the inclusion of some excellent female pundits, particularly Ursula Jacob, has gone down well, but equally, the relatively new approach to punditry in hurling is refreshing, fair, informed, respectful, and insightful.

A similar style with good anchors and quality pundits for the camogie coverage have really enhanced the games and the greater commitment from RTÉ is typified in their broadcasting of the All-Ireland junior camogie final for the first time in 2019.

Change is the natural way of things, and manageable if it’s inclusive, informed, for the right reasons, and leads to better outcomes. All in all too early to judge if the odds will favour Galway hurling in 2020.

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