Cyril Farrell: 'The last thing Galway hurling needs now is to start squabbling among themselves'
Micheál Donoghue departs and the rumours arrive. I won't pretend to know why exactly he decided not to continue as Galway manager, no more than I know if whispers are true that the squad are so upset by his exit that they want answers from the county board on various issues.
I was as surprised as everyone else in Galway to hear he had stepped down. He did an excellent job, and while this year was very disappointing when they missed out on a top-three finish in Leinster, these things happen. Remember, Tipperary didn't come out of Munster last year and are All-Ireland champions now.
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Was there more to Donoghue's departure than meets the eye? In the absence of real information, as opposed to rumour and gossip, it's wisest not to jump to conclusions.
However, I will say this: the last thing Galway hurling needs now is any form of internal strife. We had enough of that in 2015. Galway will be right up there among the top contenders again next year, provided something doesn't occur to derail everything.
That can't be allowed to happen. Micheál has decided, for whatever reason, to leave so now it's all about who replaces him. Jeffrey Lynskey looks the leading contender, but there will be other strong applicants too.
If he gets the job, he will be very much his own man, doing things his own way. It's a good time to take over. There's a lot of hurt among the players after what happened this year and there's also a sizeable contingent of real talent itching to get into the squad. Galway hurling has plenty to look forward to in the coming years.
So have several others. Indeed, after this season, up to 10 of them are already pawing the ground, wishing the new campaign would start straight away.
The players are back with their clubs now, but it won't stop all of them, except Tipperary, reflecting on what might have been.
With the exception of Waterford, whose implosion since reaching the All-Ireland final two years ago remains a complete puzzle to everyone outside the county at least, the rest were looking on last Sunday and thinking: 'how would we have fared if we were in there?'
Limerick hammered Tipperary in the Munster final, but couldn't handle Kilkenny. Galway, All-Ireland champions two years ago, didn't even make the top three in Leinster; Dublin did, but then blew it against Laois, whose win was one of the big stories of the year.
Cork will feel they should have beaten Kilkenny. Clare missed out on qualification in Munster on scoring average. Wexford won Leinster for the first time in 15 years, which was a solid achievement.
But as they watched Tipperary power through Kilkenny last Sunday, they will have felt serious pangs of regret that they didn't make more of their first-half chances and second-half numerical advantage in the semi-final.
Whoever wins the All-Ireland deserves it, so well done to Tipperary, who had to have a serious re-assessment following the Munster final trimming by Limerick.
You won't hear any Tipperary supporters complaining now, but many of them had plenty to say about the team and management after that game. And it wasn't complimentary!
Outsiders accused Tipp, not for the first time either, of lacking steel and resolve. Pure rubbish, of course, but why worry about that in an age of instant judgments, usually based on the last result? Cork are hearing the same now and, similar to Tipperary, it's nonsense too. There's very little wrong with Cork that a tweak or two wouldn't fix, especially since there's so much good young talent coming through.
As someone who experienced All-Ireland final defeats far more often than I care to remember, I know how Kilkenny feel this week. It's a horrible experience but that's sport so you just get on with it.
That's exactly what Kilkenny will do. I've been surprised so see so much negativity being visited on them, including claims that they were tactically naïve in the second half, when they fired a lot of balls in on a rampant Tipp defence.
Granted, it didn't work but that was down to individual failings more than tactical errors. I have rarely seen Kilkenny players beaten so often in the air. That had little to do with Tipp having extra cover after Richie Hogan's dismissal, but rather with players losing individual battles.
Irrespective of what system you use, it collapses if players don't at least break even in their head-to-head exchanges.
It happens rarely enough with Kilkenny, but last Sunday was one day when it did. It happened to Tipperary in the first 20 minutes last Sunday, when they should have been more than five points down, but that was forgotten once they won.
A man down and losing battles all over the place, Kilkenny were in serious trouble in the second half, but they'll learn from it.
I would regard getting them to the final as one of Cody's finest achievements, yet there's lots of speculation about what the future holds for them. I have no idea why that's the case.
At least they were in the final, unlike several teams who started the season supposedly ahead of them. So what does the future hold for those counties? Overall, this year's championship probably wasn't quite as good as last year, but then it was coming from an exceptionally high starting point. It was still very entertaining. The great old game is still in fine fettle.
One final point to close off the season. How the GAA believes it makes sense to have both All-Ireland finals played by September 1 is beyond me.
Jamming semi-finals into the same weekends is a shameful waste of promotional opportunities. So too is playing the hurling final just past the mid-point of August.