Galway's rebel class of 2015 need to show change was necessary
Something unusual happened in Pearse Stadium last Sunday week. Only time will tell if it has any real significance, but it was certainly enough to attract attention.
Galway fell 10 points behind against Waterford in the third quarter and appeared to be trapped in another of those inexplicably barren situations which have wrecked their ambitions so often.
Having already missed their first target for 2017, when failing to win promotion from Division 1B, it looked as though the wider ambition of winning the Allianz League title wasn't only out of reach but about to be destroyed in a manner that would have further consequences.
A heavy defeat would have damaged Galway's championship prospects, lowering confidence in a county already deep in frustration.
Even for a group of players accustomed to disappointment, it would have been a double hit to lose what effectively turned out to be a promotion decider with Wexford and a quarter-final clash with Waterford in the space of seven weeks. Both on home ground too.
It all changed in the closing 20 minutes against Waterford as Joe Canning led a successful Galway revival. They had done to Waterford what others have frequently done to Galway in recent years, subjecting Derek McGrath's squad to such intense pressure that it often appeared as if they were out-numbered.
Waterford had the headcount but were still well short of full-strength as McGrath road-tested his extended panel, which didn't stand up very well when Galway increased power. Galway manager, Micheál Donoghue said afterwards that his side had "acted out the good, the bad and the ugly". Luckily for them, 'the good' came at the right time, enabling them to rectify the other aspects of that triumvirate.
Donoghue's next comment was more significant. "The biggest thing we want out of these players is consistency and work rate and that workmanlike attitude every day we go out," he said.
That encapsulates the core of Galway's problem for a long time. They have beaten the top duo, Kilkenny and Tipperary, in the championship over the past five years but still didn't win an All-Ireland title.
Indeed, it's likely that if they had beaten Tipperary in last year's semi-final - a day when they came up a point short after being robbed of Canning and Adrian Tuohy for the second half - Kilkenny would have won the All-Ireland. After all, Cody's men had beaten them quite easily in the Leinster final.
Galway's inability to string a series of good performances together remains their Achilles heel. There's also the issue of disappearances during games.
The slack period against Waterford came early on, allowing them time to recover, but it has often infected them in the second half, leading to defeats. Now, the big question is whether their serious show of defiance against Waterford heralds the start of something different or was just the latest false dawn.
Offaly manager Kevin Ryan said this week that he thought there was something different about Galway when they played his side in the first round of the League. A week later, Galway returned to typically unpredictable ways when losing to Wexford.
Galway need to win this League title more than Limerick, who are settling in under new manager John Kiely, Wexford, who have already taken more out of the spring campaign that they could have hoped and Tipperary, for whom retaining the All-Ireland title is the main focus for the year.
Lest it's forgotten, the Galway squad forced Anthony Cunningham out as manager in late 2015, clearly believing that they would do better under someone else. Since then, they were relegated to 1B and failed to get back up to 1A at the first attempt, came no closer to Kilkenny than they did in 2015 and lost to Tipperary in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, having beaten them a year earlier.
Read more: How Galway squandered winning chances
If results are the only genuine criteria by which teams should be judged, then Galway have regressed since 2015. Certainly, there has been no evidence that they have sorted out the haemorrhaging problem, which has seen them concede heavily without scoring much at various stages of games.
It happened again last Sunday week before they delivered a spirited, well-structured revival which saw them home safely. They now need to build on that by not only beating Limerick, but going on to win the title.