Donoghue hoping Galway’s big-day experience proves a trump card
Manager pleased with his side’s resilience during this year’s championship run
Micheál Donoghue: “They are going to be formidable for us. We have the height of respect for them. I know it’s going to be a huge challenge.” Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Coping with the pressures of All-Ireland final day will go a long way to deciding the destination of Liam MacCarthy this weekend and Galway manager Micheál Donoghue feels his side’s big-day experience will be key.
Limerick have not been in an All-Ireland final since their 2007 defeat to Kilkenny and in that time Galway have played in four championship finals – including the 2012 replay.
Limerick’s only survivor from that clash 11 years ago, Séamus Hickey, is not likely to start at Croke Park on Sunday, but ten possible Galway starters played in their 2012 loss to the Cats.
Last year’s champions could well start this weekend with 14 of the 15 players that claimed the title. Colm Callanan has not played in goal all season, but his replacement James Skehill has two final appearances to his name from 2012.
Having being unsuccessful on three occasions before last season’s glory, Galway are well-drilled on what’s needed and Donoghue thinks it could swing the game their way.
“I have alluded to it many times, the lads are well experienced. They have massive, massive experience,” said Donoghue. “The lads have gone through an awful lot in their own careers, both in their clubs and at inter-county level and they’ve drawn on that.
“It’s been a different challenge for us this year but I think it’s one they’ve adapted to pretty well. It’s the same as any sport in the world, if you’re up there, you’re there to be knocked and that’s the challenge, to try and stay there.”
Our mantra has always been our next game has been the most important one. It’s doing us well to date so we’ll stay going with it
Despite their recent success, Galway have had to clear some significant hurdles in recent weeks and they needed replays to beat Kilkenny in the Leinster final and against Clare in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Carrying the champions’ tag brings its added pressure, but claiming the win in the end would be satisfying.
Donoghue said: “Over the last few weeks we’ve obviously started well and teams have come back into it. But they’ve shown great heart and leadership to stay in the games and we’ve got some massive scores when we’ve needed them.
“You’re not going to dominate a game for 70 minutes. It’s to maximise when you’re on top and minimise the opposition’s effect when it ebbed and flowed.
“You’ve heard me say it 100 times: we can’t control it...we’re only worried about what happens within the group and within Athenry when we’re training, our mantra has always been our next game has been the most important one. It’s doing us well to date so we’ll stay going with it.”
With the Dublin footballers writing the blueprint for how to renew All-Ireland ambitions year-on-year, this Galway squad is seeking to put Liam MacCarthy successes back-to-back.
They enjoyed celebrating their first title in the off-season and were slow to find their feet this spring, but Donoghue feels the new championship format has aided his side’s ambitions.
I keep giving all the praise to the players, they are highly motivated and they want to be as successful as they can
He said: “I think for us maybe with the new structure and everything starting earlier, and with the way the year finished for us and the break and so on, getting back into it probably took us a bit longer.
“But I think once we were open with the group and everybody really knew where we were, we put a timescale on this is where we had to be at this particular time.
“We just used the league to get through it again and it’s funny, given it’s two Division 1B teams in the final. We just used the league to get back in but once we hit the championship I thought we hit the stride well.
“I keep giving all the praise to the players, they are highly motivated and they want to be as successful as they can. When they are that driven it’s easy for us.”
On the way to success in last season’s league title Galway had plenty to spare against Limerick with three- and ten-point wins but this year the Treaty men turned the table with a stunning comeback victory, 2-18 to 1-19, at Pearse Stadium which clinched promotion. Donoghue has been impressed with their progress.
“I think they have had a massive year, huge momentum, John [Kiely] has done a massive job with them. “We got to see first-hand how impressive they were in the league and they’ve carried that right into the championship. They’ve had some massive results.
“I think when you get here [the All-Ireland final] the two best teams always end up there. They are going to be formidable for us. We have the height of respect for them. I know it’s going to be a huge challenge but it’s back to the old cliché with myself, it’s just on ourselves and our own performance, that’s all we can focus on now.”