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Galway freeze after legends' harsh words

IF you were to heed some of the talk doing the rounds this week, Conor Hayes, Noel Lane, Brendan Lynskey, Vincent Hogan and the Irish Independent were to blame for Galway's defeat in Tullamore last Saturday.

It seems it had nothing to do with Dublin or the well-organised way that Anthony Daly set them up. I don't buy that. This was a very structured performance by Dublin, who took their exceptional league form to the heart of the Leinster championship.

Nobody could dispute the merit of Dublin's win, but given the expectations that surrounded Galway, it was inevitable that their disjointed response would come in for heavy criticism.

Ironically, Galway found themselves under fire before the game from three of the county's greatest warriors, Hayes, Lane and Lynskey.

They told it very much as they saw it in interviews with Hogan and those who read their remarks were left in no doubt about just how frustrated they felt. No one could question their sincerity, although maybe the timing was a bit off.

I have no doubt that the Galway squad knew all about the comments before they headed for Tullamore. Managers and players will claim they are oblivious to what's written in papers. That's nonsense, of course.

They live in the real world so the idea that the Galway squad wouldn't know what was written about them is pure daft. After all, the country's biggest selling daily newspaper had a headline 'Are Galway Too Soft?' on the front page, so it hardly went unnoticed.

Most Galway people, including presumably the players, thought it was an orchestrated effort by Hayes, Lane and Lynskey, which added to the impact since Conor and Noel had both managed the team, while Brendan was a selector with Ger Loughnane. Hogan explained on Monday that wasn't the case and that he had contacted the three of them separately off his own bat, but try telling that to the conspiracy theorists. They see plots where none exist.

I mention the article because it possibly set in train a chain of events which underlines one of the key problems for this Galway team -- a lack of real, hard-nosed confidence. Having read what the three boys had to say, were the Galway players so determined to make a bold statement that they over-reacted?

It's possible, because there has to be some explanation for how flat-footed they were. They might have been inconsistent, lost games they should have won and surrendered decent leads over the past few years, but Saturday was different. This was chaotic stuff.

It was as if so much intent welled up inside them that they became paralysed by their efforts to unleash it. Dublin are good, but not so outstanding that they could create square yards of space, catch everything virtually unchallenged and arrive first for breaking ball unless there's something radically wrong with the opposition.

That went on for a long time, although it was only in the run-up to half-time that Dublin did really serious damage. Even then, it was there to be won, but Galway never got any rhythm going. And with Joe Canning's aim nowhere near his usual standard, scores were hard to come by.

I have no problem listening to the likes of Hayes, Lane and Lynskey offering their heartfelt opinions on Galway hurling, but I get weary of the outside ambush brigade who have all the answers without knowing the questions.

Thus, in the interests of accuracy and fairness, let's debunk some crazy theories. It's nonsense to suggest that Galway are producing small, knacky hurlers who do well at minor level, but who don't train on and certainly not at senior level. Galway's underage teams are as big as anybody else's and a damn sight more skilful than most.

So, where's the disconnect between underage and senior? Maybe the young brigade are not being blooded early enough. Look at how successful it has been for Tipperary. I'm a great believer in giving youngsters a chance as soon as possible.

No doubt, the great debate about Galway hurling will continue at another time, but, for now, the priority for the squad has to be to get ready for Clare next Saturday. It would be easy to launch a tirade against John McIntyre -- and, boy, he lowered the blades on several Galway managers over the years, including myself -- but it serves no purpose at this stage.

I would question why he hadn't settled on his team earlier, but his priority now has to be to get the squad in the right frame of mind for next Saturday. If he does, the season is far from a lost cause. After all, Tipp fans weren't exactly hailing the team or Liam Sheedy this time last year, but they turned things around spectacularly.

Whether Galway can do it remains to be seen, but they are certainly capable of a whole lot more than they showed last Saturday. They have to put it behind them -- plus the disgusting reaction of a small number of supporters afterwards -- and get back to hurling as they can.

The incentive is there but they must control it, rather than the other way around. If they do, there's still progress to be made.

offaly out of luck after drawing cork

OFFALY hurlers haven't enjoyed much luck this year and it continued when they drew Cork away in the next qualifying round. They head for Pairc Ui Chaoimh today on what is a very difficult mission against a Cork team that's right back in the All-Ireland mix. I expect them to win and to be joined in the next round by Antrim, who should beat Carlow.

feile showcases best young talent

IT'S Feile na nGael weekend in Galway where the cream of young hurlers, camogie players and handballers get a chance to display their wonderful skills. Always a brilliant spectacle, it's something the participants will never forget. Well done too to all involved with the event.

Finally, I was at a Galway-Clare U-21 challenge in Clarecastle on Thursday and I'm glad to report there's serious underage talent in both counties. By the way, is there a better goalkeeper in Clare than Whitegate's Andrew Fahy who played for the intermediates last Sunday and for half of the U-21 game? I doubt it.

Irish Independent