Micheál Donoghue steps forward to speak about what Galway people understandably believed was past. The inexplicable hurt, the misery that comes from playing beneath themselves when it really matters.
What they presumed was no longer theirs to own. Donoghue has built a team around Joe Canning of powerful, slick-moving hurlers seemingly poised to repeat the greatness required to retain Liam MacCarthy, just like maroon men of 1988.
Instead, then came the Galway hurlers everyone witnessed pre-2017, swinging from brilliance to inaccuracy, especially when faced by manic young Limerick players.
The same question is asked as many ways there is possible in seven minutes without stating the obvious: Why?
Why so many “uncommon errors”? Why did the hurler-of-the-year-in-waiting, Pádraic Mannion, cough up a wealth of possession? Why couldn’t they engineer the scores that cloaked all other issues this summer?
“We were just below par,” responded Donoghue. And he does not know the answer. “Training had gone well for the last two weeks. We were in good form coming up this morning but . . . Look, it’s disappointing when it doesn’t go well on the big day but we have to take it on the chin.”
There had been warnings. Those in direct contact to the panel freely stated Galway were cruising in third gear. See how they blitzed Clare, yet couldn’t turn a substantial lead and clear dominance into comfortable victory.
“Everything . . . we just seemed to struggle to get into it. Sometimes games go like that.”
Total capitulation was salvaged by a string of Canning strikes before Conor Whelan’s goal lit the fire; the last gift in this great hurling year, a fitting conclusion to an otherwise insipid All-Ireland final.
“Limerick got the big scores when they really needed them but our boys fought to the end,” said Donoghue. “Really proud of them. Limerick had the edge on us the whole day. Deserving winners.”
Maybe it was all the games. Nine matches – including two dances with Kilkenny to win Leinster then Clare over double extra time periods – or the two-week build-up to mend creaking bodies.
“I’m not going to make any excuses. My thoughts on the players isn’t going to be any different . . . I have no doubt they are going to bounce back again. We take it on the chin, we have no choice, we just move on.”
Stunned by unfamiliar lights, Limerick froze on 2-15 after Tom Morrissey unburdened Gearóid McInerney (was he fit enough?) in an act of blatant larceny that had the usually regal centre-back like a man clinging to the door of his own accelerating vehicle.
“But I thought we brought it back,” continued Donoghue . “The third goal was the killer.”
Galway were pick-pocketed several times while attempting to hand pass from their own territory. Shane Dowling has arrived late into championship cauldrons all season to make a difference. This third stamp on Galway's desperate showing made it an eight-point game, yet somehow Canning's slicing stick play reduced matters to nothing.
Whelan's catch-and-shoot goal left five between them. Canning's bullet free made it a two-point game. But when Niall Burke reduced the score to the minimum Graeme Mulcahy shook Limerick out of a historic trance.
His was their first point in 33 minutes. It proved enough.
“Anything we’ve asked of these lads since we came in,” Donoghue concluded, “they have been top notch. They have been one of the top teams because they have been knocking on the door for so long. Obviously last year we made the breakthrough, which was massive. There is a lot of learnings we can take from the year, particularly early on and how we prepared for the year.”
So, clearly, not everything went according to plan.