The blame game
IF I read or hear any more about how many games Galway hurlers and footballers have lost by a point, followed by predictable, simplistic nonsense about 'mental softness', I'll throttle whoever has the neck to offer such lazy analysis.
It annoys me beyond belief to hear that sort of rubbish. Galway people are as tough as anybody else and to suggest otherwise is stupid. Our record as a county that promotes hurling and football at a level where all our teams in every grade are serious All-Ireland contenders every year is in marked contrast to a great many others.
So, spare me the patronising crap. Indeed, let those who are throwing it out as if it were some sort of unquestionable gospel look at their own doorsteps.
Mind you, I have to admit that John McIntyre didn't help Galway's cause by his emotional interviews after last Sunday's defeat by Tipperary. He seemed very keen on defending the Galway players in case anybody suggested that mental fragility in the closing minutes cost them the game.
That was only drawing attention to a theory which has no basis in fact. Tipperary won by the odd score in 39 in a highly entertaining game (there were a lot of mistakes on both sides, but the sheer drama more than compensated for that) and, as a Galway man, I'd have to admit that it was a fair result.
If it were a boxing match, where the winner is decided on opinion, I'd expect Tipperary would have got the nod. They were marginally better over the full game and are now right back on track in pursuit of the All-Ireland title.
As for Galway, they're still in fifth place on the rankings list, having yet again failed to break into the top four. I would fully support giving McIntyre another year but just as players have to learn from mistakes, so has management.
As far as I'm concerned, Galway need to analyse the background to last Sunday's defeat every bit as much as the game itself. It's easy to rewind the video and watch what happened over the closing minutes as Tipperary turned a two-point deficit into a one-point win -- but there's more to it than that.
Players will harbour doubts if their management have them -- and I'd have to say that there were signs of that stretching back over several weeks. Apart from the defeat by Tipperary, things went well for Galway in the National League, culminating in winning the title.
They were still okay after the championship win over Wexford, but it seemed to me that the two games against Offaly changed everything. It was as if Galway suddenly lost confidence in their ability to slug it out toe-to-toe with Kilkenny in the Leinster final -- hence the decision to place Joe Canning miles from the opposition goal for a long time, followed by playing Damien Hayes even further out in the second half.
If Brian Cody could have scripted the ideal opposition game plan to make life easy for Kilkenny, that's exactly what he would have done. So why did McIntyre play into his hands? Galway rattled into Kilkenny with furious intensity last year and while they came up short in the end, they left Tullamore feeling good about themselves. Conversely, Kilkenny knew they'd been in a game, unlike this year's Leinster final where they did what they liked.
It seemed to me that once Galway began to struggle against Kilkenny this year, they were set up in such a way (mentally and structurally) that it became a damage limitation exercise. In other words, keep Kilkenny's winning margin down as low as possible and hope to drive on in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Several of the Galway players seemed confused against Kilkenny. It was as if they didn't quite know what their role was or, if they did, they had no faith in it. That's a management issue. Did management have doubts about how best to tackle Kilkenny?
You've got to believe totally in what you're doing at all times -- otherwise doubts transmit themselves to the players. Galway's poor performance against Kilkenny left them heading into the Tipperary game with uncertainties, which wouldn't have been there if they had been set up properly and gone for broke in the Leinster final.
Okay, they would probably still have lost, but they would know more about themselves than they did after that bleak afternoon. Galway were better set up last Sunday, but still came up short so the map has to be redrawn for next year.
For a start, I'd put a natural corner-forward at No 15 and move Iarla Tannian out. Joe Canning attracts two or three markers nowadays, so you need to have deadly snipers playing off him. Damien Hayes fits the bill, Tannian doesn't.
Moving Tannian outfield should help to win ball in the half-forward line, which has been a major problem for Galway. Indeed, their capacity to win ball in the air in the middle third of the pitch has, with the exception of Tony Og Regan, been poor. The entire defence needs reassessing too. Having said that, Ollie Canning's departure for the closing minutes last Sunday proved important as did Fergal Moore's absence all season.
Despite what happened this year, Galway still have a squad capable of winning an All-Ireland. By all means reappoint McIntyre, but, once he's back, he's got to analyse his own game as much as that of the players.
His call for the pundits to be fair to Galway and to recognise how much they had given was unnecessary. Everybody knows how much effort they put in, but in the end they -- and the management system -- hasn't moved Galway into the top four. As for punditry, John was never shy of dishing out the hard medicine in his own columns.