Micheál Donoghue doesn’t so much keep it short and sweet, as just short.
No frills, no excess, nothing said that you could mount on a tee-shirt or, indeed, the wall of the opposition dressing-room.
Go back to the league final victory over this weekend’s opponents and when pressed on its significance, the Galway manager’s response did not stretch beyond the familiar line of ‘winning is a habit’ and it’s important to feed that habit as often as possible.
Mind you, you’d have been naive to expect anything more from Donoghue, even in the aftermath of a 16-point filleting of the All-Ireland champions.
Towards the end of our chat with Donoghue at last week’s Galway press morning, the manager is asked what aspect of the job he has found the hardest.
His answer, while not surprising, is a welcome declaration of honesty. The cliches are parked.
“Look, and it’s not being disrespectful, the media side or the social media side, I just don’t get involved in it. That’s no offence. That’s just me,” he says.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human and sometimes, people and supporters forget that these boys have day jobs, these boys have families, these boys have everyday problems like everyone else and after a defeat, some of the criticism is way over the top.”
Anyone in particular he feels has gone “over the top” in their analysis of the Tribesmen?
“We’ll have that discussion another time.”
And back into his shell, he goes.
The following is an abridged version of the chat.
Q: Are you conscious how hard it is for provincial champions, Kilkenny aside, to win an All-Ireland semi-final?
MD: We were really mindful of the five-week period from the league final to the Leinster quarter-final against Dublin. We were very cautious on how we managed it, knowing that if we did win the Leinster final that we’d have the same period again. The lads played club games the weekend after the Leinster final, which was a good distraction. It got them away from us. They’ve come back well and we’re happy with how our own internal games are going. You are just hoping it is up to the required level.
Q: Having faced numerous sweepers en-route to Leinster glory, do you expect to face a sweeper again this year?
A: Well, all our focus is on the next game and I don’t think we’ll meet it the next day, no.
Q: So are we likely to see a shootout?
A: When you look at the last two years, it has probably been a manager’s nightmare that it just turns into a shootout. And I’d expect this game to probably end up the same way. Obviously, you’re going into it with a mindset of how to minimise it. We know each other really well, so the challenge for us is what we can do differently. There’s a lot of confidence in our boys at the minute and we’re going to have a good lash at it.
Q: Is it set-up in Tipperary’s favour given they wear the tag of reigning champions and yet are also being considered slight underdogs?
A: How can you say the reigning All-Ireland champions are underdogs?
Q: The bookmakers have them so...
A: I don’t look into it and don’t particularly care about it. All I’m worried about is our boys. The fact the league final went the way it did… this is a totally different game now. Tipperary are going to be relishing it.
Q: What do you take from last year’s All-Ireland semi-final?
A: There were probably one or two areas we should have been stronger in. There are a few aspects of the game and a few individual players that we probably should have focused more on.
Q: How long after the game did you watch it back?
A: A few weeks.
Q: Was it too raw to watch it straight away?
A: No, not that. I wouldn’t be that obsessive about watching it that quickly. We tried to create an environment, whether we’ve won or lost, that there are learnings to take away from every game and hopefully we’ll have learned from last year.
Q: What aspects were you lacking in?
A: Ask me on Monday.
Q: Would it be important for hurling that a different county takes the top prize this September?
A: It’d be great. When that happens, it always gives other counties huge hope and belief that they can go on and do it. I know we haven’t won obviously since 1988 but we are still one of the most consistent teams out there. We have been knocking on the door so hopefully, this year will be different.
Q: Do you believe if you knock at the door long enough and hard enough that it will eventually open?
A: For you to be successful, you have to be at the business end the whole time. We’re dealing with a group that are really, really experienced and the biggest change from last year to this year is they’re taking huge ownership and they’re driving it themselves. So, we’ll keep pushing it and see where we go.
Q: What about the growing expectation in Galway?
A: There’s a huge desire from everyone here that you could get over the line. The fact that we’ve won the league and the Leinster championship, expectations have gone higher. We just want to build a team that the supporters are happy to come out and support and who play a brand of hurling that is easy on the eye.
Q: Do you feel their time has come?
A: I wouldn’t say that. Even last year, they pushed. We all want to be successful. It’s their third consecutive All-Ireland semi-final. They’ve been in the final, as well. We keep saying, you have to draw from past experiences, both good and bad. The fact that we won the league, won the Leinster final, there’s a lot of confidence. Hopefully, that will bode well. But we’re under no illusion that it’s going to be a huge challenge playing Tipp.
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