Friday 15 November 2019

Forde: The pain these lads have been through got them over line

Galway selector Francis Forde. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway selector Francis Forde. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

'Enough is enough' became the mantra for these Galway players all week as they built towards a fourth All-Ireland hurling final (including the 2012 drawn game) and in the end they lived by those words.

Even on the field, as selector Francis Forde recalled, the communication between the players reflected that. The pain of previous defeats went from being a burden to a driving force and their ability to channel that properly at crucial times made a difference.

"I know that was in the commentary from the players, quite simply they were not going to let this happen again," Forde recalled, referencing previous defeats.

"I know that was said between Davy Burke, Johnny Coen, Joe Canning, even out on the pitch, 'this is not happening again'.

"I think that pain, that hurt, that these lads have been through probably drove them over the line in the end.

"Enough was enough because, as a county and a hurling team, we'd endured a lot and taken a lot of criticism. In fairness to the boys they haven't responded to it, they've taken it on the chin.

"Look, they're good lads, there'll be no one saying we told you so. I think they're just delighted to get over the line."

Forde and manager Micheál Donoghue were part of that lost generation of Galway hurlers who enjoyed so much underage success, and even in Donoghue's case at All-Ireland club level as a manager, but ultimately couldn't get the job done.

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"My first time in Croke Park was the All-Ireland final in 1980. I saw people that day with tears in their eyes, I saw people on Sunday with tears in their eyes.

"The dream for all of us growing up, for any young fella, was to do that on the field. There's a generation of hurlers around my age, it just didn't happen for us. One of the key things I felt bringing into it and the management of the group was you had to admit as a player, things didn't go well for us and our generation. You could dwell on that or you could just say to the players, 'look we don't have all the answers'.

"That was kind of the message. But we'd do our utmost to look for those answers together with the players. In fairness to them, they bought into everything we did over the last two years. I think it took every ounce of that on Sunday because Waterford threw everything at us."

When Forde and Noel Larkin joined up with Donoghue they were coming in on the back of Anthony Cunningham's acrimonious exit.

But if there was hesitation on that front it was only brief, he admitted.

"We probably had a discussion on it, but never really any reluctance. We could have said that timing wasn't great. At the end of the day, we had huge belief in this group of players.

"I remember a conversation I had with Micheál. He was involved with Tipperary at the time, around 2014.

"Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion were some of the lads that had come on during the league and you could see there was huge potential in the squad. We felt, maybe, if we could add five per cent. That is all it is. Páidí Ó Sé once said about the grain of rice, the margins at this level are so fine.

"It is an honour to be involved in the backroom team of your own county. There is also a sense of duty there, that if you feel you can bring something to it, it is a once in a lifetime kind of thing. Once you decide to go for it, you go all in. That's what we did."

There were arrows in their direction, notably after the 2016 Leinster final defeat, criticism that Forde now admits was "hard to take".

"None of us have any problem with criticism," he said. "When it becomes a bit more personal or you have a cheap shot at someone, that was hard to take.

"But at the same time when you meet as a management group, you do laugh it off. If you believe in what you're doing, believe in the process you're involved in, you just stick at it. The outcome takes care of itself. I know that Derek (McGrath), for example, shipped a lot of criticism. That Waterford team, the way they play, they're a phenomenal outfit. He has them playing a style of hurling that absolutely suits the players he has."

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