Masterful Micheál makes Tribesmen’s dreams come true

Galway manager Micheál Donoghue celebrates with his sons Niall, Con and Cian after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Galway manager Micheál Donoghue celebrates with his sons Niall, Con and Cian after the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Waterford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

It is the question Micheál Donoghue always dreamed of being asked, and not long after the full time whistle was blown in Croke Park last Sunday, he tried to put it into words what it felt like to be All Ireland champions.

“It’s an absolutely unbelievable feeling,” he said. “I think the preparation from the semi-final to today couldn’t have gone any better for us.

“Over the last number of weeks I said to the lads their experience was shining through and, you know, we said it the last couple of months.

“I’m in a privileged position here today as the manager. It would be remiss of me not to mention all the managers who have gone before me to help develop and nurture these players. Similar to the players who have represented Galway since 1988, and in particular in the last couple of years, some great players....it has been a huge collective effort.

Donoghue says the squad must take the credit.

“We are saying it for the last couple of months, since the Wexford game, these boys have taken huge ownership, and any management team is trying to develop a team and a squad that they take ownership. They have done it for the last couple of months.

“They have been questioned and doubted so many times in the build-up to the game. There were still references they were chokers. Nobody ever came out and said these boys showed huge resilience, but today coming up we had a serious chance. We had a few setbacks in the first half, but the character, the unity, and everything that has been built in that squad showed in abundance today.”

There was also a certain amount of relief in victory. “Absolutely, I was dreading coming in here if we hadn’t [won].”

Going into the final it was said by many it might be Galway’s best chance of winning the Liam McCarthy for the first time in 29 years. However it was never discussed in the squad.

“It’s always there, but you know, I think one of the biggest strengths is that we excluded everything outside our own circle and dressing room.

“We couldn’t control what was being said or what people were saying about the team. Of course there was going to be pressure, we’d got to the final again, and you know, I suppose the biggest thing for me was if we didn’t win today, knowing the effort and the sacrifice and the commitment these boys put in, and what they’d face next week if they lost today.

“It wasn’t about the pressure on me or the team, it was just how these boys have been questioned year after year and the resilience they have shown. At the start of the year we had our own goals, and we took it one step at a time. Everything we asked of them they bought into, and we were in a serious frame of mind coming up today and we knew we were in with a serious shout.”

Galway’s lack of goals in recent matches had been proposed as a possible weakness in their quest for glory, but their shooting of points from distance was all part of the plan, Donoghue said.

“That’s down to the quality of the players we have. Throughout the year we’ve encountered different systems and different sweepers and the lads always had the capability of shooting outside. Even today it was making sure we had the right lads out the field that were well capable of taking scores and thankfully that paid off.

“We got off to a great start and got the confidence going. The belief starts getting bigger and bigger in the players and they are not afraid to shoot. To shoot you have to be capable, and we have those players.”

The impact of the Galway bench down the home straight when the game was right in the melting point was earmarked as one of the decisive factors in their victory, and Donoghue was full of praise for the impact they made.

“They did, but look, there was a big call to be made on our behalf starting Jonathon [Glynn]. He had gone really well for the last few weeks in training and when the team was announced on Friday night, to illustrate the character and the unity that’s in this squad, Niall Burke went over to him, wished him well and told him to empty the tank and he’d come on and finish the job - that’s fair testament to the man and he stuck to his word and came on and made a massive impact.”

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