Galway not stymied by past failures

Talk of history is all well and good for those of us sitting on the sidelines but, for those in the thick of it yesterday as five o’clock approached, there was no time or inclination to pause and contemplate the magnitude of it all.
Galway not stymied by past failures

Certainly not for the Galway players that strange cocktail of exhilaration mixed with fear as the last seconds dwindled away. For them, it was all about taking care of business until Fergal Horan blew his whistle and pulled the last of the shutters down.

“I remember hoping for the referee just to blow it up because I didn’t want the ball to come back down,” said the defender Pádraic Mannion. “We knew how dangerous they were there when the high ball was being landed in.

“I just couldn’t really believe … you’re trying to register what’s after happening. It’s something that you’re thinking about all the time when you’re growing up: You’re thinking, ‘I’d love to win an All-Ireland’. But I don’t think you really believe that you have.”

Mannion was born five years after Galway’s last All-Ireland senior title. A good two hours after the final whistle and he was still unable to frame the day in the context of the county’s long-standing famine.

“Not so much that famine as much as the famine that this current group of players have gone through. Guys like Colm Callanan who have been there since 2007/2008. That was the famine we wanted to end, not so much the 29-year one.

“As a player, that’s the kind of thing you have to focus on but when you realise it has been that long then it is a massive honour to go down as part of history, especially with the calibre of players who were playing back then.”

That inability to process it all was understandable but there were brief moments of clarity and times when the odd man could step outside the maelstrom and contextualise events as they unfolded at a bewildering pace.

With Waterford a point up in the second-half, captain David Burke had a word with Joe Canning and Johnny Coen, the jist of it being that this wasn’t going to happen to them again. By ‘this’ he meant another eminently winnable final slipping through their fingers.

There was always that sense that this Galway team was different. That this group of players wasn’t going to be hemmed in by any bunk about past failures and sweeping generalisations about how Galway teams can’t make that final step over the finishing line.

A two-point loss to Kilkenny in January’s Walsh Cup final was the one stain on their year, unnoticeable though it is now in the bedlam of September. The league and Leinster titles that followed were far more significant.

Both served as pillars on which they would break the establishment.

“I suppose winning finals has been a bit of a problem,” said Mannion, who was on the side that lost out to Kilkenny in the 2015 title decider. “The league final and Leinster final, we got massive confidence from those. We spoke about having composure and that we had to keep it, build up a bit of consistency in finals in particular. That carried the momentum from those games through to each game and it finally paid off.”

It’s no surprise that they have been described as Kilkenny in maroon jerseys.

Galway’s Joe Canning and Waterford’s Shane Fives in a battle for a dropping ball.
Galway’s Joe Canning and Waterford’s Shane Fives in a battle for a dropping ball.

Galway’s consistency has taken many forms this summer but one of the more unusual is the fact that they haven’t scored a goal since claiming two against Dublin in May.

Offaly, Wexford, Tipperary, and now Waterford have all been put away without recourse to a green flag. Almost 300 minutes without a single player registering a three-pointer. Why bother with them when you can rack up the points as they do?

They have been robotic (in a good way) in their ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over, their approach and their determination to stick to it left unfazed even by the concession of two annoyingly soft goals like those struck by Waterford yesterday.

“That’s what all the best teams do down through the years,” said Mannion. “Kilkenny always showed the composure. They were up against it many times. You thought they would get beaten and yet they would always grind it out.

“It’s something we worked on in training, all through the league and the Leinster championship, getting that consistency of performance day in and day out.

“We brought a certain amount of that, even if there is always something to work on after every game.”

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