Hanley: Galway too good for Dubs
IN geographical calculations, the city centres of Dublin and Galway are roughly equidistant from Tullamore but for the hurlers of whichever county should lose Saturday night’s Leinster SHC semifinal, the journey time will feel more like a psychological eternity.
For the defeated manager – either Anthony Daly or John McIntyre – the spin will be a rough one, filled with regret and the initial search for redirection.
Both teams have ambitions of ultimate glory. Defeat – while not strictly speaking the end of the road – would certainly elongate the path to glory.
Or, how about this for pressure?
“If Dublin beat Galway on Saturday evening, realistically, they could win an All-Ireland.”
So says Westmeath hurling manager Brian Hanley, anyway, a Galway man himself but whose Westmeath team gave the Tribesmen an almighty scare in their Leinster opener.
As for the mood of the Galway team bus at roughly nine o’clock on Saturday evening if Dublin were to prevail, Hanley paints a similarly stark, if completely contrasting, picture.
“Where do Galway go if they don’t beat Dublin on Saturday evening?” he wonders. “One manager is going to be well and truly down in the dumps. After three years in charge, if Galway aren’t in the Leinster final in three weeks’ time, where does John McIntyre go from there?”
Firstly, we must point out that Hanley expects Galway to win. He believes the Tribesmen possess superior quality and that in their third year of McIntyre’s reign, they are – or should be, anyway – approaching their peak.
He is also sceptical of Dublin’s ability to maintain and, indeed, improve on their league form but his analysis of the differing postgame scenarios illustrates just how important Saturday’s clash is to both teams.
Both are utterly keyed up. Both believe they will win.
A former Galway U21 selector and closely tied into the Liam Mellow’s club which contributes the talents of David Collins, John Lee and Aongus Callinan to the Galway cause, Hanley rejects suggestions that the Connacht side’s preparations have been in any way fractured or underwhelming.
“They have been working on this since last November,” he insists. “This is what they have been gearing up for. I know that Damien Joyce has been going around with a sign in training saying ‘18th of June’. This is what they have been focused on.”
But back to that proclamation of the potential explosive chain of events a Dublin win might set off.
“If you weigh it up, if Dublin come along and produce a performance against Galway in the championship, it blows everything out of the water for the last four months of the championship,” Hanley states.
Yet for a man who presided over a Westmeath team that were level with Galway coming into the final stretch a couple of weeks ago, his belief in the Tribesmen might seem like blind faith.
Asked whether he thought, even for a second, that his team would win that game and trigger Armageddon for Galway, Hanley’s response is quite certain.
“No,” he admits. “I know the quality that they have. When they brought in Shane Kavanagh and Tony Óg Regan, we didn’t win any ball in the air. If Galway learned a little bit at all, I think they’re in a great position, to be honest.
“They got a bit of a fright alright. If Galway can go on and do well and Westmeath played some sort of part in it, that’s my job done.”
The chief cause of Galway optimism this season – as ever – is Joe Canning, a man of whom little has been seen since the turn of the year. In his role as U21 selector, Hanley saw at close quarters the influence of the Portumna prodigy and he describes Canning, simply, as “phenomenal”.
Hanley is adamant that “winning the league would have been no good to Galway”, whereas Dublin’s spring success meant that “Anthony Daly justified his tenure. Dublin without doubt went out to win the league and fair play to them, they did it. And it’s brilliant for hurling that they did.
“I know Dublin have a certain expectation now. What they did to Kilkenny (in the final), no team has done. I don’t remember any team ever doing to Kilkenny what Dublin did in the league final.
“But if Dublin don’t win on Saturday evening ... they won’t be where they expected to be. It’s how they deal with that. It’s going to be a huge challenge.
“And likewise for Galway,” Hanley adds.
“Really, neither team can afford to lose on Saturday.”