Dublin boss Micheál Donoghue ready for winner-takes-all contest against Galway

Former Tribesmen manager brings Dublin hurlers to Salthill for decisive Leinster SHC clash

Micheál Donoghue’s last game as Galway senior hurling manager was a defeat to Dublin in 2019, a result that ended the Tribesmen’s summer.

It remains the only time Galway have not progressed from the group stages of the Leinster senior hurling championship since the inception of the round-robin format in 2018.

On Sunday, Donoghue will be on the familiar Pearse Stadium sideline in Salthill, only this time in his current role as Dublin manager for a winner-takes-all contest against his native county. It’s probable, though not certain, that only one of Dublin or Galway will still be standing in the championship come Sunday evening.

For the man who in 2017 managed Galway to what remains their most recent All-Ireland SHC title, the repercussions of Sunday are tricky — eliminate your native county or have your efforts in Dublin come up short. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


In the closing moments of his interview after the defeat to Kilkenny at Parnell Park last Saturday, Donoghue was asked for his thoughts on facing Galway.

“Looking forward to it,” he replied, before walking away with the kind of smile which indicated he was looking forward to it like one would a visit to the dentist.

Galway hurling is in Donoghue’s blood — he played minor, under-21 and senior for the county, and etched his name in history in 2017 by managing them to only their fifth Liam MacCarthy triumph.

Of the 20 Galway players who featured in that 2019 Leinster SHC defeat to Dublin at Parnell Park, 10 played in their win over Antrim last weekend. Donoghue has been in the trenches with these players, how he’s the field marshal trying to overrun their barricades.

Niall Corcoran has a better understanding than most of what Donoghue is wrestling with this week. He was corner back on the 2000 All-Ireland minor winning Galway team and was progressing through the ranks with his native county until work took him to Dublin where he transferred to play with Kilmacud Crokes and ultimately the capital’s hurlers in 2008.

His first game coming up against his native county was in early 2009 when he found himself marking Ger Farragher, his team-mate when Galway had won the All-Ireland minor final in 2000.

“It is definitely strange when you go out to play against players who you would have built up strong relationships with over the years,” says Corcoran.

“If you move county or club, then it’s one of those experiences you just have to go through and learn to deal with it. When it came to Dublin playing Galway, particularly the first couple of seasons it was tricky, but then you start to cope with it a bit more. Ultimately, you want to perform to your best and the team wants to perform, so that is where your focus goes but those first few occasions were strange.”

Corcoran hurled with Dublin until 2016 and during his time in blue he won a National Hurling League and a Leinster SHC.

Over time, the games against Galway blended in with all the rest for Corcoran and he believes Donoghue has enough experience to park his personal attachment this week and simply deal with the job at hand.

This will be Donoghue’s fifth time as Dublin manager to be meeting his native county, though he has yet to pick up a win. Galway beat Dublin in the 2023 and 2024 Walsh Cup, they also won when the sides met in the league this year while the championship clash between the teams last summer finished level.

But there is a huge amount on the line for both teams this Sunday.

“Micheál knows a lot of that Galway squad, he would have won an All-Ireland with many of them, they would have gone through a lot together. You don’t win an All-Ireland without building strong bonds and strong relationships,” says Corcoran.

“I’m sure those relationships are still there with players, so from that perspective, it might be difficult for him. But knowing Micheál, he brings huge professionalism and he will see that he has a task to do with Dublin, and no more than the rest of the management team with him, they have to go down to Salthill and get a performance from their players.

“The challenge will be to keep the emotions in check but I’ve no doubt Micheál will do that. There’s no getting away from the fact it is a massive game, but it’s about approaching it like just another game.”

The spotlight is not just on Donoghue, though. This is a significant fixture for Henry Shefflin, too, as the Kilkenny native tries to generate a spark that might finally ignite Galway’s championship campaign.

It hasn’t been overly impressive from the Tribesmen so far this term and failure to advance beyond Leinster would certainly increase the scrutiny in Galway.

Dublin enter the game on the back of a gut-punching defeat to Kilkenny last, with Eoin Cody’s 70th-minute goal snatching victory for the Cats in a game the Dubs had enough opportunities to win.

For Corcoran, Dublin’s mental response to that loss will be telling in how they fare against Galway.

“I think a lot of it will be about how they frame last Saturday,” says Corcoran.

“I remember in 2013 after drawing with Kilkenny in the Leinster semi-final, before we left Portlaoise, Dalo [Anthony Daly] hopped on the bus and he set the tone.

“He said, ‘the whole country thinks we are going to lose this replay, but we’ve got other ideas’. He kind of framed it as if it was another opportunity for us to show what we are capable of. Micheál will have looked at the positives of the performance against Kilkenny, the result was disappointing, but he’ll be telling the players to go out and repeat that performance but this time get the result as well.”

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times