HE'S only 26 but Finian Hanley has already squeezed a lot into his Galway career.
Back in 2005, he joined the Galway senior panel along with the likes of Sean Armstrong and Michael Meehan after they blazed a trail to an All-Ireland U-21 title. This summer, he's one of the experienced heads expected to lead the latest batch of Galway's talented All-Ireland-winning U-21s who have made the step up, some of whom could face Mayo in the Connacht SFC semi-final for the first time on Sunday in Castlebar.
"In any county you'd think that would breed success year after year," Hanley said of the county's haul of three All-Ireland U-21 titles and one national minor crown since 2002. "But it hasn't for whatever reason. The conveyor belt is broken and it needs to be tweaked a wee bit."
Opinions differ on why Galway have struggled to make an impact at senior level recently. Hanley agrees that a persistence with their traditional style of open, attacking football in an era when other teams value possession above all else may have cost them dear, but he insists it will always be so.
"I don't think (a defensive style of football) will ever be allowed in Galway," he said. "If we start putting 13 men behind the ball, people wouldn't go to the games. Galway always played a kick-passing game, moving the ball forward at pace.
"We wouldn't be known for using a blanket defence and maybe that's to our detriment as well. We play six versus six and we seem to be conceding a lot of scores. Is it a good thing? Okay it's good to watch but is it good for Galway football too? It's a results business so you have to shore yourself up a small bit. But if you win enough ball around midfield you don't need to do that."
A high turnover of managers (four since 2007) has also hindered the Tribesmen. Joe Kernan was brought in for a three-year term in 2010 but was gone just as quick as he followed Peter Ford and Liam Sammon out the door.
"Whatever happened (with Kernan) I don't really know. He was there one day and gone the next and we were looking for another new manager," he said. "It hasn't really helped in the last couple of years that every winter you come back and you've a new guy in and he is pulling and dragging at lads again and maybe he doesn't really know the county. Lads get a bit frustrated at that."
Kernan saw off Tomas O Flatharta narrowly for the job in late 2009 and Galway turned to the Kerryman last winter. At their zenith, O Flatharta's Westmeath side boasted the stingiest defence in the country. In the Division 2 league campaign of 2008, which concluded with a league final win over Dublin, they conceded an average of just eight points a game.
And while Galway were relegated from Division 1 this term with five losses from seven outings, including an eight-point defeat at home to this weekend's opposition, there were signs that the Tribesmen were turning a corner at the end of their campaign when a win away to Armagh and a draw with Dublin offered cause for optimism.
There was considerable experimentation during the league, including Hanley's switch from full-back to midfield, where he is likely to start against a Mayo side that flirted with humiliation away to London. With both of Connacht's big two on a somewhat shaky footing, Sunday's result will offer more than the usual bragging rights.
"Tomas, maybe to his detriment, he came in and tried things that hadn't been done in years. We had always gone quite well in the league since 2005 and got to finals and finished in the top three but in doing that we've played relatively the same guys over and over without blooding new players.
"Tomas has done that this year. Now we've got some bad beatings on the back of that and got relegated but going forward it's more important that we have given lads a chance and tried lads out in new positions."