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Sunday 17 December 2017

Donoghue: We were nearly lynched by Galway fans after Wexford defeat

Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Pic: Sportsfile
Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Pic: Sportsfile

He can look back and laugh now but Micheál Donoghue's recollections of Galway's loss to Wexford in Salthill back in February are still vivid.

"We were nearly lynched by the Galway supporters who were there," he says, half-joking.

Despite it being just the second game of their Division 1B campaign, the claustrophobic nature of that competition meant that any defeat for the expected top three of Galway, Wexford and Limerick, would likely have put the kibosh on their promotion chances.

The manner of it, with Galway leading by seven points at one late stage of the first half and still six when Joe Canning buried a penalty with his first touch on the 53rd minute, meant sympathy was in meagre supply from the home crowd.

"I remember we met the leadership group on the Monday night after the league game," Donoghue recalls.

"They took huge onus and responsibility. We discussed the manner in which we lost the game.

"I think that was a huge learning for us in our whole development as a team.

"I know people refer back to the Waterford game (Galway's comeback win in the League quarter-final), but the Wexford game, for me was…

"We sat down, had a chat and the players knew exactly what we wanted after that game."

Winning

"Wexford deserved to win that match because they stuck to what they were doing.

"We were in a good position, a winning position. We didn't stick to what we were supposed to do. That was a huge learning for us."

The Galway hurlers' relationship with their support base hasn't always been a straight-forward love story.

Levels of expectation and success have been in lopsided proportion, though unlike the Mayo footballers and their devoted following's seemingly endless quest for All-Ireland glory, the Galway hurling fraternity have been more prone to recrimination.

"Once we met the players, it was one of the first things we said that we have to try create a team where they want to come out and support us," Donoghue says now, in the preamble to Sunday's All-Ireland final, the game that could change that dynamic permanently.

"And if we come out with the right attitude and we've always emphasised the responsibility that goes with wearing the crest on your chest.

"The boys have really brought into that. No more than any other sport, if people see you are working hard and trying to be the best you can be, you will get the support.

"For the duration of the championship, we have got massive support. Hopefully, that will continue."

Donoghue's quiet stewardship of a Galway team that suffered an All-Ireland final loss and forced their previous manager out has been hugely impressive.

"We keep saying to them that they have to keep drawing from the good and be," he explains.

"At the start of the year, we set our own goals as to where we wanted to go

"Look, it has gone well for us to date. We are always learning as well.

"That is why it is good to talk to different managers and get different perspectives from different sports, see what works well.

"It is something I always did with the club. I've spoken to Pam Lam, Eric Elwood, all those boys."

Humble

"It is great to get a different perspective."

Donoghue found Lam, the former Connacht coach now with Bristol rugby, "such a humble person".

"Pat really bought into the west of Ireland and really brought everyone together. What he brought from his own playing experience was obviously massive too.

"He is just really insightful."

Waterford, Donoghue notes, have been "one of the most consistent teams in recent years".

"They were unfortunate last year not to progress to the All-Ireland final," he reckons.

"We are under no illusions.

"We are playing a team with huge experience.

"No more than ourselves," he adds, "they are where they want to be."

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