Saturday 7 December 2019

Clare bosses shine in their adopted lands

Cyril Farrell

TWEAKING time is over for Galway hurling. The thing to do now is grab a blank page and a biro, lock the door and don't come out until a plan is in place. It's got to be brave and radical, practical and workable.

Most of all, it has to be underpinned by a sense of ruthlessness not seen for a very long time. I'm saying this as a Galway man so I share in the deep disappointment over what happened last Sunday.

However, there's no point obsessing about the immediate past; now it's all abut learning the lessons it has taught Galway. They couldn't be harsher but they can still be used positively.

There's no way out of a hole unless you understand why, and how, you fell in there in the first place. In Galway's case, there are no easy answers, but I'll suggest what I regard as one key reason for the decline.

I'll call it the 'tweak factor', a belief that the squad from the previous year was basically good enough and would make the All-Ireland breakthrough with a few adjustments.

All-Ireland final appearances in 2001 and 2005 perpetuated that theory. And in each case when the following year or two didn't deliver an All-Ireland title, the managers were blamed.

They were replaced and the tweak factor took over again. At no stage was there a wholesale clean-out of players. Obviously, the various managers believed the squad they inherited was, in the main, the best available and that they could impose their personality on the scene and bring about the necessary improvement.

In fairness to Noel Lane and Conor Hayes, they steered Galway to All-Ireland finals, which was real progress. It was understandable that they would go back the following year (2002 and 2006) with largely the same squads but, when it didn't work out, they were the ones to be let go.

I have no intention of stitching it into John McIntyre for what happened last Sunday. In his role as a journalist, he wouldn't be quite as tolerant (indeed he wasn't over the terms of many managers, including myself) but there's nothing to be gained by personalising it.

My main issue with him would be that he didn't make more changes to the panel over the last few years.

Last year, Galway went into the quarter-final against Tipperary with five of the six defenders that played in the 2005 All-Ireland final; it was down to four for the start of this year's championship but would have been five if Ollie Canning hadn't retired.

The 2005 defence was a Hayes creation which did well that year but not subsequently. Yet five and indeed six years later the majority of them were still on the team.

Not even Kilkenny, who won four All-Irelands in a row, had such a small turnover. I'm not dumping all the blame for Galway's problems at the defence's door, but I am using it as an example of how there was too much loyalty to the idea that things would be different next year.

One of the most disappointing features of Galway's performance last Sunday was the shortage of leaders. Kevin Moran, 'Brick' Walsh, Tony Browne, Shane Walsh and John Mullane led the way for Waterford, whereas Galway struggled all over the place.

I didn't see a hurl broken, a man rattling into his opponent or bodies flying into the fray in the way teams have to if they are to have any chance at this level.


That's not to say that Galway don't have leaders and hard men. Many of those who played last Sunday are better than they looked, but what good is that? All-Ireland titles aren't won by reputations.

My own view is that McIntyre should step aside as manager. He tried and it didn't work. He -- or the rest of his management team -- shouldn't have to carry all the responsibility, but the squad was their creation.

They were given three years -- long enough to get the maximum from the squad and the philosophy they brought to the job -- but nothing came of it in the end. There's no shame in that but Galway have to move on.

You'll hear lots of suggestions as to who should take over. Liam Sheedy, Eamonn O'Shea, Davy Fitzgerald, Anthony Daly and Donal O'Grady were all names I heard at the races during the week, but that's to miss the point. I have no problem at all bringing in an outsider but it's not necessary. What Galway need now is a culture change, a realisation that the old way of messing around the edges and hoping things will come right doesn't work.

In late 1984, I took over as Galway manager for the second time, backed up by two of the smartest hurling men you'll ever find in Phelim Murphy and Bernie O'Connor.

Galway had performed dismally against Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final and while we had soldiered with many of the players who won the title in 1980, we went for wholesale change, which raised quite a few eyebrows in Galway at the time.

It took three years to win an All-Ireland and we took stick along the way but we were proven right in the end. We built a new squad, rather than tweaking around the edges. That's what Galway need to do again.

A new management, a dramatic panel overhaul and a clear strategy for the next three years is the way forward. Galway hurling is still in a very healthy place with an excellent underage structure, probably the best club championship in the country and a lot of exceptional talent at senior level.

However, it's got to start backing itself, not with makeshift changes in pursuit of a quick fix but with a focused drive. If it does that, Liam MacCarthy will be back west a whole lot quicker than might appear likely right now.

THERE they were, the two Clare rogues 'Fitzy' and 'Dalo', lording it at Semple Stadium last Sunday after leading Waterford and Dublin into the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Credit where it's due, Davy Fitzgerald and Anthony Daly have done a great job in their adopted counties.

The knockers who savaged Fitzy after the Munster final haven't been heard of since last Sunday. He has got Waterford back into the semi-finals for the fourth successive year, which is a fine achievement, while Daly has taken Dublin to new levels this season.

Now we look forward to how they set their stalls out for the semi-finals. Knowing that pair, they'll have some tricks up their sleeves.

A final point. It's wrong that Waterford minors aren't playing at Croke Park ahead of the senior semi-final tomorrow week. Why spread Waterford seniors and minors over two Sundays?

It makes no sense and is downright unfair on Waterford.

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