It’s not the malaise that shadows the Galway senior hurling team that exercises Tony Keady most. He has his concerns, similar to those held by his old half-back comrade Pete Finnerty, about their current situation. Like, just how many supporters will bother making the trip to Croke Park tomorrow.
But Keady is more concerned about how the manliness is slipping away from hurling. “If you look back to the Clare-Limerick game last weekend, poor (Seanie) Tobin. He did jostle with his man but his two hands were on the hurl. There was nothing malicious. I’m just asking lads when they do get a belt not to be lying down. I don’t think there’s any place for that in the GAA. It hurts me. The man you’re trying to get sent off has been doing four nights’ hard training a week, the same as yourself. Be a sportsman and get up!”
It’s a consideration for Galway, with so many men over six foot and boasting athletic frames, that they may fall foul of a referee or two because of their size. It’s the least of their worries right now, though. Galway is a county that has long run out of excuses but grown tired of hearing them too. The league form this year augurs poorly and did nothing to back up Anthony Cunningham’s assertion after losing to Tipperary and Kilkenny in the space of a week last summer that they were on the right road.
The controversy that surrounded his reappointment last September didn’t help either. Galway needed a good spring and when it didn’t come, the knives were out. There are those in Galway hurling who claim the manager’s role may be untenable if they lose tomorrow.
Finnerty doesn’t go that far but he recognises gloom when he sees it. “It’s infected the whole place. Supporters are disappointed there’s no structure to the team. We weren’t able to break down Waterford, we had no plan B. After four years, it’s disappointing.
“Nobody knows who’s going to be at centre-forward or full-forward. I presume Greg Lally will be centre-back. In any other top hurling country, you could more or less name the spine of the team. We’re four years chasing a spine and we’re still trying to find one. That’s where the power comes from and we haven’t been able to fill those position in four years. It’s staggering.”
Keady, a selector with the Galway U21s, accepts there is disenchantment among supporters. “What I wouldn’t like to see is 30,000 Dublin people in it and maybe a handful of Galway people. The way support has gone in Galway, not having won an All-Ireland for 27 years has had an effect.
“If you had Brian Cody over Galway at the moment and they weren’t winning matches the fans would be the same way. We’re not winning anything and it doesn’t matter what a manager does. Anthony Cunningham can only put 15 players out on the pitch on Sunday. If they lose people will be like ‘sure, didn’t we try to get rid of that man last year’. Win and he’s the best man around again. The starvation is there for 27 years and it’s a hurting point for a lot of Galway fans.”
Then there’s the age-old question of where to get the best out of Joe Canning. Keady’s former team-mate and ex-Galway manager Noel Lane earlier this month called for Cunningham to place him at full-forward. Keady, though, understands why he is needed elsewhere.
“Jonathan Glynn is the new kid on the block, he’s a good presence and great power. Most managers in Ireland would say they would never have Joe Canning around the middle of the field but at the edge of the square. But because of his striking ability and the way he delivers the ball to inside forwards with Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion hurling well, Dean Higgins and Glynn, there is more of a role for him further out the field. For years going back, the edge of the square was the real position for him because he’d be rattling the net more often than not when the ball was sent in but times change.” Don’t Galway know it.