Saturday 10 December 2016

'The only people that matter are people that we have respect for - family and friends'

Published 25/07/2016 | 02:30

Galway manager Míchéal Donoghue, left, is congratulated at the final whistle
Galway manager Míchéal Donoghue, left, is congratulated at the final whistle

There was a little over a minute of the additional five minutes remaining at the end of the second All-Ireland quarter-final when Galway's Aidan Harte cut inside and shot a second successive wide into the Killinan End.

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The significance of that moment though is what was happening at the other end of the field. There, Joe Canning had placed himself as the last line of defence in front of Colm Callanan.

Galway were sitting on a six-point lead with the clock running down but the location of their marquee player, taken to task so often in the past for being too peripheral when the heat is turned up, in such a role was a statement in itself.

Whatever had to be done would be done by whoever had to do it. Canning took on that responsibility in those vital last few minutes and the added security ensured there would be no leakage.

As play cleared from this danger zone in the build-up to that Harte opportunity, Canning turned to his goalkeeper and shook a fist of defiance. This was not a day for yielding and in the exchange between two senior cabinet members, that much was evident.

The storm whipped up in the wake of their Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny had asked questions of their character.

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Ger Loughnane criticised Galway

Ger Loughnane had planted the most potent incendiary so this riposte to those 'gutless' taunts may well turn out to be his biggest contribution to Galway's hurling fabric, almost eight years on from his departure as the county's hurling manager.

This Galway team, ostensibly in the fifth year of the cycle begun by Anthony Cunningham in late 2011, has had better hurling days but scarcely one as ferocious and venomous.

They set the terms of physical engagement that Clare took a long time to adjust to. In truth, they probably never did come close to parity on that front.

They blocked, they hooked, they hit. Hard and often.

The aggression Cunningham went a long way to putting into them, but deserted them in two second halves against Kilkenny, manifested consistently here.

They pulled up the drawbridge early and enjoyed one of their best defensive days in recent times.

Daithi Burke lorded the skies, Harte was foot perfect as the extra defender created by Clare's deployment of a sweeper at the other end, Aidan Tuohy, a late addition, harried and hassled Podge Collins to an early withdrawal.

Their manager Micheál Donoghue had been in the line of fire since the Kilkenny defeat but suggested motivation had not been sourced from external taps.

"Any day you get to a final, a provincial final, there are always people who are going to have comments and analysis of that, but with respect the only people that matter are people that we have respect for - family and friends.

"We haven't made any big deal out of it - when a team loses there's always a bit of criticism, and Galway seem to get the lion's share of it from some of you guys," he suggested. "We know when it's coming."

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Galway's Joe Canning

At the heart of the response was Canning who nailed every one of the six frees and two 65s he stood over. But it was his goal just 10 seconds into the second half that really gave Galway the conviction to go on and lock this game down, a break from the throw-in by Johnny Coen, cleverly sited there from the start, with David Burke in support creating the opening. Maybe only Canning would have scored from the angle he found himself facing.

A seven-point interval lead, 1-10 to 0-6, was now out to 10 and the climb just got steeper.

Curiously, with the wind at their backs for that second half Clare chose not to re-calibrate the numbers by pushing a player up on Harte until near the end when the game was gone.

Thus Galway were able to keep them at arm's length and until the arrival of Conor McGrath and Colin Ryan, Clare had just two scorers in those opening 48 minutes.

But taking out their rout of Laois in an earlier qualifier they failed to score goals in their other three Championship games against Waterford, Limerick and now Galway and that is an ongoing concern.

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For their manager Davy Fitzgerald it had been a difficult week after he underwent minor heart surgery.

But the conversation with his surgeon, Mr Niall Mulvihill, about taking his place on the sideline didn't last long once his discharge was confirmed.

"Five minutes after that, I said, 'I'm thinking of going on Sunday.' He said 'if you really want to, you can.' He said 'stay calm'. Sure that was never going to happen anyhow!"

The good wishes he received all week had an uplifting effect.

"It's nice to have people that care - that's very important. You've been in this game a long time. I tell you, it was a tough week but all the nice comments help and that. This is where I'm most at home, out here, and I love it, really enjoy it."

With a year left on his latest agreement with the Clare County Board Fitzgerald admitted he would take some time to decide his next move but he didn't sound like a man ready to lift anchor.

"I'll sit down and talk with the family. Health is number one, and we'll see. I love my boys, I'll always talk to them anyhow because they've been so good to me and we have a massive bond together, myself and the lads.

"National league champions, went to the All-Ireland quarter-final - for a county like Clare, not so bad, but there'll be better days ahead from them."

A day of redemption for the beaten provincial finalists began with Waterford's summary dismissal of Wexford in yet another lifeless game.

But Derek McGrath has long since stopped concerning himself about aesthetics and if there was a certain 'told you so' schadenfreude from the game's purists about the manner of their defeat to Tipperary it didn't alter the method with which they have played the game over the last 18 months and has, essentially, enshrined them as a top-four team.

In fact, a 10-point win and another goal shut-out has re-inforced their beliefs.

"I was asked to speak to the Rotary Club in Waterford about four months ago and I read 'The Road to Rotary' by Paul Harris. I think there's a great quote in it. He said when the clash is between ignorance and intelligence, ignorance is the aggressor. That's the way I would look at it.

"I'd replace intelligence with truth because I'm not saying we're intelligent. That's how we'd feel about it. We're here to be shot down because of that but it was definitely a case of guns loaded, ready to go.

As sweeper - a term McGrath insists has never been referenced in their dressing-room - Tadhg de Búrca was arguably their busiest player as he cut out the supply line to Conor McDonald so effectively.

McGrath admits finding it somewhat amusing that there's been such little reference to the deployment of Paudie Foley in the same role at the other end.

"I was amazed that 16 minutes into the coverage of the Wexford-Cork game people actually pointed to the fact that there was no sweeper here even though Paudie Foley was sitting on the edge of the D for the whole match.

"I couldn't believe it that people didn't actually see it. When you're playing seven that automatically gives you a sweeper but maybe it's just easier to say Waterford have a sweeper."

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