Michael Verney: 'Donoghue's shock exit leaves Tribe at crossroads'
The right managerial appointment is crucial if Galway are to lift Liam MacCarthy again
Only those close to Micheál Donoghue had any inkling that he might step aside as Galway hurling boss and his departure creates a massive void which no one had expected to fill.
As Donoghue's resignation statement read, he took the role with "the simple goal to bring success back to Galway hurling and to build a culture of professionalism and consistency in performance." He certainly achieved that objective in spades.
Taking over after a player heave led to the end of Anthony Cunningham's tenure, Donoghue brought stability and ultimately guided them to the promised land with their first Liam MacCarthy Cup success in 29 years.
His four-year term will be remembered fondly, with two Leinster triumphs, a League title as well as landing the Holy Grail and the distinction of being the only manager to defeat the mighty Brian Cody three times in championship action.
He leaves with his head held high, but the uncertainty and instability with which his reign began have returned. The nucleus of their 2017 All-Ireland-winning side are still in place with a plethora of underage talent coming through, so the right appointment is crucial if they are to reach the pinnacle again soon.
Here are the most likely candidates.
He comes to the table with an outstanding underage pedigree having managed the Galway minor hurlers to three All-Ireland titles (2015, '17 and '18) in his four years in charge before stepping up to the U-20 job this year.
That didn't go as expected when they were dumped out at the first hurdle against Kilkenny, but the Liam Mellows clubman would be a safe pair of hands who has shown himself to be adept in the modern game.
Having been involved with the Galway academy system and various underage development squads over the past decade, this would be a natural progression for Lynskey, although it has probably come unexpectedly and a few years earlier than planned.
The 42-year-old - a teacher in Galway Community College - managed the NUIG Fitzgibbon Cup side this year and fits the bill as the front-runner to lead the Tribe forward.
What a strange turn of events it is that the job Kenny has always craved would come up while he is managing Dublin, the side which knocked Galway out of this year's championship and spelled the end of Donoghue's reign.
That his head would be turned so much by the prospect of managing his native county that he would leave Dublin is unlikely, but having been pipped at the post by Donoghue at the end of 2015 before guiding Cuala to back-to-back All-Ireland successes, it would definitely appeal to him.
Had this come at another time, the Tynagh-Abbey/Duniry man would jump at the opportunity to get involved, but the nature of Dublin's summer exit to Laois gives the sense that he has unfinished business in the capital.
On the shortlist to replace Cunningham before pulling out, Hardiman has the pedigree and garners serious respect in Galway hurling circles.
He guided Galway to All-Ireland minor titles in 1999 and 2000 before taking charge of the U-21s and serving as a selector under John McIntyre for three seasons (2009-'11). Vice principal in St Raphael's College in Loughrea, Hardiman has been out of the inter-county loop since then but played a crucial part in the surprise Galway SHC victory of Sarsfields in 2015, their first in 17 years, and he could be coaxed to throw his name into the hat.
Fresh from winning All-Ireland minor honours last Sunday in his first year in charge with a comprehensive defeat of Kilkenny, Hanley is likely to be given a chance to stake his claim.
The Athenry clubman enjoyed a hugely successful playing career that yielded seven county and three All-Ireland titles and is learning his craft in the coaching/management sphere with great success.
Asked after their minor win whether he would like to management the senior side some day, he said: "I don't look too far ahead. This is about Galway hurling and what we can do to help. At the moment, that's what it is and I'm very grateful to have the opportunity."
Donoghue's exit may change that, but Hanley is a longshot and expected to stay within the underage ranks and serve his apprenticeship.
Galway's last venture outside the county boundary was a disaster, with Ger Loughnane having two difficult years at the helm in 2007/'08 so there may be little appetite to look for any non-Galway candidates, although Daly would fit the bill perfectly.
Daly put his name forward for the Clare job at the end of 2016 before pulling out to make way for the arrival of Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney and brings a lot to the table.
The former Dublin boss has been keeping his hand in at club level with Kilmacud Crokes as well as working as a pundit on 'The Sunday Game' and is well received wherever he goes.
However, should the Clare job become vacant in the near future - and there's a strong possibility it may - the pull of a second stint in charge of the Banner would rule him out.