Sunday 22 April 2018

'Galway are built up far too easily, only to come crashing down'

Tribesmen legend Conor Hayes reveals why he's sick and tired of his county's false dawns

Galway manager John McIntyre leads the round of applause alongside his players before their league game against Tipperary last weekend.
Galway manager John McIntyre leads the round of applause alongside his players before their league game against Tipperary last weekend.
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Former manager and All-Ireland winning captain Conor Hayes has raised serious concerns over Galway's prospects of ending the barren All-Ireland run this year.

Hayes, who captained Galway to the All-Ireland double in 1987-88 and who managed them in 2003-06, believes the capitulation against Tipperary in Pearse Stadium last Sunday week augured badly for the much bigger challenges ahead.

"It was an abysmal performance. They were flattened in the second half and it was very worrying from a Galway viewpoint that the team didn't stand up when the real pressure came on. Instead, they allowed Tipperary to walk through them. It was embarrassing at times. There seemed to be a bit of panic on the sideline too.

"It was a game where Galway should have been putting down a marker, but, instead of that, they were wiped out. It was even worse than the performance in Thurles last year when Tipperary also ran through them in the second half," he said.

Despite that, Galway can still reach the league final by beating Waterford on Sunday and have been installed clear third-favourites behind Tipperary and Kilkenny for the All-Ireland title -- but Hayes believes that the underlying problems which have bedevilled them for years still exist.

"The same mistakes are being made year on year. That's what makes it so frustrating. Maybe you can't read too much into one game, but the reality is that when Tipperary raised their level of performance to what you'd expect from All-Ireland champions, Galway walked away.

"It's not the first time that's happened either. The idea that once you think you're going to be beaten, you head for the gate and wait for the next game won't get you far," said Hayes.

He also believes that Galway are extremely fortunate to have their league destiny still in their own hands.

"Being honest about it, Wexford and Offaly were poor and after a shocking start against Kilkenny, Galway got some of the luckiest goals imaginable. That doesn't happen very often against Kilkenny.

"Galway definitely should not have won in Parnell Park. Dublin lost that game (they shot 19 wides) more than Galway won it. You can dress results up anyway you like, but those are the facts, yet you hear talk about turning corners, new beginnings and all that sort of stuff.

"Galway seem to be third favourites for the All-Ireland every year, but don't live up to it. The trouble is that once there's a perception out there that they're ready to make the breakthrough, people buy into it, only for another year to pass with more of less the same results as the one before.

"Galway are built up far too easily, only to come crashing down again," he said.

Hayes is disappointed by Galway's failure to integrate more young players into the set-up and by their inability to get others to improve on an individual level.

"That's what has stood to Tipperary and Kilkenny. In fairness to Liam Sheedy, he went with a lot of younger lads in Tipperary and look where it took them. Galway are producing good young players too, so you might as well go with them rather than sticking with lads who are producing more or less the same sort of results every year.

"As for players who are there a few years, where's the incremental improvement? Look at how Brian Cody brought players along over a few years in Kilkenny. Michael Fennelly was raw enough a few years ago, now he's a mighty presence at midfield. Michael Rice, TJ Reid and PJ Delaney are others you could see improving all the time. That sort of thing doesn't seem to be happening in Galway."

He's concerned too over Galway's lack a killer instinct, citing championship games where they led in recent years only to be reined in over the final minutes.

"We don't tend to put teams away. Kilkenny and Tipperary will bury you into the ground if they get the chance.

"If they're ahead by seven points, they want to make it 17. Galway just don't seem to be learning in that regard," said Hayes.

He will be travelling to Walsh Park on Sunday, hoping to see Galway use the distressing memory of the Tipperary fiasco to get them back on track against Waterford.

"They have got to deliver a good performance. They won without doing that against Dublin which wasn't of any real long term value. But even if they win against Waterford, there should be no talk of turning corners etc, etc.

"The only way to achieve that is to get a solid consistency into your game. It's the only way to reach a level where you can hope to have a real shot at the championship rather than coming up short again, even before the semi-finals.

"Things will improve when lads like Joe Canning and Damien Hayes come back, but the mistakes which keep on being made year after year will have to be got rid of," said Hayes.

Galway will reach the league final for a second successive year if they beat Waterford.

However, if they lose, it's almost certain that they will be overtaken in a group where Kilkenny lead on nine points, followed by Galway and Dublin (eight each), Tipperary and Waterford (seven each).

Waterford will reach the final if they beat Galway and both Dublin and Tipperary lose.

Kilkenny will qualify if they beat Offaly; Dublin need to beat Cork and either Galway or Kilkenny to lose, while Tipperary will make it if they beat Wexford and Dublin and Galway lose.

Irish Independent

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