Alan Glynn kept the faith and his perseverance is now being rewarded. Adamant about the potential within the Galway minor set-up, Glynn has admirably dealt with setbacks.
Undoubtedly it has been a testing, but thrilling campaign for Galway, who are busy preparing for a ninth 2022 Championship match. That it is an All Ireland final merely adds to the excitement.
“It has been a nice journey with a lot of ups and a couple of downs in the middle of it,” Glynn says. “So we are delighted to get to the final stage, to the last two. I think it is nothing less than the lads effort and their talent deserves.”
Beaten three times in Connacht, Galway have subsequently flourished on the national stage with stirring triumphs over Dublin and Derry to ensure another meeting with an accomplished Mayo outfit. Glynn is completely aware of the importance of matches for developing emerging talent.
“It has been fantastic and I have to say a credit to the Connacht Council, the way that they organised the minor competition this year,” Glynn replies.
“The last two years obviously have been knockout - we were unfortunate, last year we lost by a point in the Connacht semi-final, so we only got one game. This year every team was guaranteed the round robin series, then we ended up going into a semi-final and final.
“Even if you were to finish in Connacht you had a minimum of four games. That is just really, really good.”
Getting the opportunity to perform in high stakes matches too - the buzz, sense of occasion illustrates the possibilties that sport provides. “When you are a young player getting to go out to play in front of crowds and going to different county grounds, playing games, and the build up, the post match, and all of that - it is really going to bring them on leaps and bounds,” Glynn adds.
“I really have to give credit to Connacht this year, the way they did that. Of course then, the All Ireland series, by virtue of getting to a Connacht final you were guaranteed to be in the last eight so that was obviously most helpful having lost to Mayo in the Connacht final.
“We are into game nine which is great for our lads for this year, but also looking ahead to U20 and senior where ultimately we want them to go. We will be going bald headed to win this game, but there is a bigger picture at play all of the time. That is U20 and to get them into the seniors.
“Well done to Padraic Joyce and the seniors, that gave everyone a big boost. We were saying to the lads that is ultimately where we want them all to end up in the big games in Croke Park on national television.”
A balance needs to be struck, though, because while winning brings hope and momentum, crafting players for the future is also critical. “Definitely, we wouldn't be doing our job properly, as a management team, if we didn't have that to the forefront of our minds,” Glynn replies.
“We are trying to coach the lads obviously to be good this year, but to coach them, to build on the great coaching they have got in their clubs and schools so they can prepare themselves for what is coming down the line.
“We have been trying to - as much as possible - to create an elite atmosphere to train in and to work in from strength and conditioning to the diet. Enjoyment has to be central to everything that we do.
“We don't want lads to be coming into a real kind of dictatorship kind of environment - being told what to do. It has to be a very enjoyable thing and a very enjoyable lifestyle for them to do. That is a crucial aspect of their preparation for future inter-county careers.”
This is an interesting time for Gaelic Football Corribside. Underage teams are competing strongly, Pádraic Joyce’s seniors are motoring well, the schools and third level standards are rising too.
“It is brilliant,” Glynn says. “Ducky [Donal Ó Fatharta] had a couple of great years there with the minors prior to me - they were very unlucky not to win at least one All Ireland. I remember the year after I took over from Ducky we had 200 players at trials the following January. I was kinda cursing it at the time - the logistics of it, but it really inflamed the interest in playing underage football for Galway.
“They went on to win the U20 which was a great fillip for them and the whole county. The seniors win against Armagh was just massive. We are now really competing at the top end, we are into the last four - an exciting game to come against Derry the same weekend as ourselves.
“So there is a fantastic buzz. The win in the Sigerson - I think they had three games down in Dangan. A lot of our lads went watching really high quality games that the lads were able to see, watch, and learn from.
“Everything is looking really good. Hopefully we can deliver a few more national titles over the next few weeks - the seniors and minors.”
St Michael’s willingness to afford young coaches chances to take teams at every level has been a feature of the past decade.
“I was in my early to mid twenties when I took over a minor team for a couple of years,” Glynn recalls. “Then I did the U21s for a number of years and I did the seniors. So there was no shortage of opportunity to hone coaching and management skills.
“I think management is all about giving responsibility and trust to go to do a job. I was very thankful to the club from that perspective. From a very young age that they would trust me with the care of underage players and older players later on.”
A teacher at St Joseph’s College, Glynn has also played a central part in The Bish’s emergence as a respected footballing force.
“Then I had the experience with school too, managing two or three teams a year,” he adds. “That gives you a great opportunity to learn - to be on the sideline for as many games as possible. It all contributes towards your development and building your experience.”
Ultimately Glynn relishes being involved at this level. There is enjoyment trying to help a group flourish.
“It is brilliant,” Glynn responds. “Dealing with elite lads knowing that we are going to training every evening, knowing 30 lads are of really high quality, eager to learn, who just want to get better is a very satisfying environment to be in. It brings its own pressures too.
“You have to be up to standard and you have to be able to challenge these guys to improve them developing them for the older age groups at U20 and senior. We should be - if we are doing our job correctly - getting a group of players in January to improve them.
“We are in July now and handing them back to their clubs as better players and better rounded players. It is hugely satisfying; it brings challenges with it too. That is really exciting. It has been a great opportunity and a great honour over the last three years to be able to do that.”
Galway have responded following setbacks demonstrating character and craft under duress. “Things didn't go our way in the Connacht final,” Glynn says.
“We know what happened previous to that. It has been a great year in terms of development and excitement. There has been no shortage of excitement. Everything hasn't gone absolutely plain sailing for us, but when it has counted in the knockout games - we had a Connacht semi-final that was knockout we put in a really good performance.
“The quarter-final against Dublin was knockout, last week against Derry was knockout. So the lads really when there was potential pressure associated with games the lads have really thrived. We said early on in the year the management team - who have been really exceptional with me - we were able to identify early on if we could get these lads into the thick of summer, into June and July we figured the style of play that we play - summer football, faster pitches, bigger grounds will really see us thrive.
“That is what has happened. Certainly since the last 15 minutes of the Connacht final, into Dublin and Derry we are actually getting better, better, and better. We are hoping to bring that into the ultimate game.”