| 9.5°C Dublin

O'Neill's strong, silent approach is driving Tribes


Galway boss Shane O’Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

Galway boss Shane O’Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

Galway boss Shane O’Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

Damien Quigley has a small piece of advice about his friend and former club colleague Shane O'Neill. "If you see him running somewhere, fall in behind quickly because there is something wrong!"

Quigley is trying to synopsise maybe the calmest person he knows, largely unflappable in the chaos of either victory or defeat. Mute the sound of his post match interviews following the recent Leinster final reversal to Kilkenny or the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Galway seven days later and little distinction is apparent in his demeanour on either occasion.

"The man doesn't do fuss. He was always that way," recalled Quigley, one-time Limerick corner-forward and a veteran hand, like O'Neill, when Na Piarsaigh made their breakthrough in the county in 2011.

That began a decade of dominance that saw O'Neill switch from player to manager quite quickly and enjoy subsequent success which was the springboard to where he finds himself this weekend, on the sideline with Galway in an All-Ireland semi-final facing many of the players he shared those glorious moments - an All-Ireland club title in 2016 and Limerick and Munster club success in 2015 and 2017.

O'Neill is only Galway's second outside manager, following Ger Loughnane's underwhelming two years in 2007/08. John McIntyre's roots are in Tipperary but he has been living and working in Galway so long he hardly constitutes an outside pick while Babs Keating's role in 1979 extended to coaching.

That O'Neill found himself the preferred choice last year after Micheál Donoghue's exit was testament to his credentials but also to the confusion which reigned after their most recent All-Ireland winning manager left.

At the beginnning of the last decade, Quigley found himself part of a small committee in Limerick vetting and making the relevant appointments after Justin McCarthy's departure.

"To be fair to Galway and Shane, it was a big move for both. That Galway team has been around the block a long time, had won their All-Ireland in '17, been very close on a number of occasions. That's a very seasoned dressing-room, they are accepting a rookie manager - and I don't mean any disrespect to Shane but at inter-county level he is.

"And Shane, being the bright fella that he is, would have understood that it is a big thing to walk into a dressing-room with the likes of Joe Canning, David and Daithí Burke and these guys who are very heavily decorated. It was a ballsy move. There is no dipping toes in the water here. Galway isn't a place where you'd be doing that."

For David Breen, another of his former Na Piarsaigh players now working as a physiotherapist at the Manchester City academy, Galway was one of the few jobs O'Neill would have been drawn to.

"He never struck me as the kind of guy who had ambitions to be the next Brian Cody or anything like that," said Breen. "It would just have been a very attractive proposition at a top team like Galway not too far for home.

"When you look at what's there, I know he'd love a challenge like that. There wouldn't be too many teams he'd take on."

As players, Quigley crossed paths with O'Neill at Na Piarsaigh and Limerick.

As Quigley recalls, the right preparation was always his thing and on that front, he'd have no regrets as a player. "At a time when preparation in the 1990s wouldn't be what it is now, he would have been doing it right then."

"He'd have absolutely no ego. He thinks about the game and very good with people. He knows when to say something and when not to. he'll never speak for the sake of it."