Back in late 2011 when Alan Mulholland was appointed Galway football manager, he talked about transition.
“I think the Galway footballers need space and they need the people of Galway to be patient,” said Mulholland. “Honestly, I think we have to remove any thoughts of silverware next year. Maybe that’s not what people want to hear but it’s what the players need. My aim is to build a solid foundation and manage the transition because that is what is happening in Galway football.”
Nearly three years on, Finian Hanley is happy to declare that Galway’s phase of transition is over and statistics back up his claim. This weekend, they will play their first All-Ireland quarter-final tie since 2008. And they are through to the last eight as a reward for winning their first Round four qualifier tie since 2001 when, coincidentally, they won their last All-Ireland.
If he’s honest, experienced full-back Hanley believes the transition talk has been overplayed and that they’ve been settled for some time now.
“Every time you have a kind of bad year, you say, ‘well, we’re in transition from the (good years)’. But, you know, it’s a long time since 2001 and they’ve been talking about transition ever since. You can’t be using that any more. You just have to push on.”
Against Tipperary last weekend, midfielders Fiontán Ó Curraoin and Thomas Flynn scored Galway’s first two goals. They are still classed as novices, U21 graduates though they were in the team that lost to Meath in 2011, before Mulholland even took over.
Hanley himself, Gareth Bradshaw and captain Paul Conroy were there in 2008 when they last played an All-Ireland quarter-final.
Asked if he feels the transition ended some time ago, Hanley nodded.
“Absolutely, it’s been done for a long time. It’s just that we’ve lost a lot of games narrowly and down to bad luck. That happens. And teams go through stints of not progressing but hopefully it’s an upward curve for Galway now because it’s a big county, a traditional football county. It’s time to see them on the up again.”
On Sunday, they meet a Kerry side in determined mood following their Munster final heroics against Cork.
“I suppose they played very defensive that day,” said Hanley. “They played counter-attacking football. Defence did a lot of good work and then obviously they have a big threat up front as well. We’ll have to try and nullify that and get our own boys up front on the ball. They’ll be under no illusions that we’ve got a bit of pace there as well.
“It’s Kerry, they’re a class act. They’re always there or thereabouts. They were a kick of a ball away from a final last year and everyone had them written off. They have their sights on big things as well.
“We’ve been around this team a couple of years ourselves. So we’ve our sights set on pushing on too. It’s just great to be back in a quarter-final and we’ll give it a right rattle.”
Recalling the 2008 game which Galway lost by five points in monsoon like conditions, Hanley said; “It was some game. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of reflecting done on that game this week. It was a bit of a thriller, a high-scoring game in crazy conditions. I hope it’s not as high-scoring this time and the result is different. That was a game we could have won but didn’t.”
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