Flattering to deceive a cruel existence fated to hurling Tribe
I had the privilege of spending the weekend in Galway, but was met with a bizarre scene when arriving on Shop Street on Saturday evening. The city, usually thronged on weekends when the sun begins to drop, was depopulated.
And then I remembered: the hurling. At around 10.30 or 11.0, many of them arrived back in maroon and white, like foot soldiers returning home from a war they knew they couldn't win.
Such is the cruel existence of the Galway hurling fan. It's not just the losing – though there has been a lot of that since 1988 – it's the beautiful hope that resurfaces year after year before the losing happens.
Take these latest two skirmishes with Kilkenny. In the curtain-raiser, your run-of-the-mill county would have battled hard before fizzling out. Galway, being Galway, started well, dug themselves a massive hole in the second half, scored 3-3 in the last seven minutes, and then when Shefflin seemed like he'd rendered it all for naught, Canning scored a point for all-time to force a replay.
And for what? An eight-point loss six days later.
What amazes me is that, through it all, people still believe. The TV blackout contributed massively to the travelling support on Saturday, but from talking to fans, it was clear the wildness of that comeback had rekindled hope.
And now, Thurles beckons on Saturday. A friend told me he couldn't remember Galway winning in Thurles in the championship in his lifetime. This guy's in his 30s. A quarter-final loss to Tipp in 2011 brought down the curtain on John McIntyre's reign.
I'm beginning to wonder if it really matters who coaches Galway, and if perhaps this is just their fate, always to flatter to deceive.