Sunday 24 February 2019

Last-four chatter can wait - Donoghue only cares about the Cats

POINTER: Conor Whelan of Galway in their round-robin win. Photo: SPORTSFILE
POINTER: Conor Whelan of Galway in their round-robin win. Photo: SPORTSFILE

The Galway hurlers are starting to resemble the Dublin footballers. After years of suffering they have morphed from perennial pretenders into the team everyone fears the most.

Micheál Donoghue is even starting to sound like Jim Gavin: an expert at neatly sidestepping questions about red-hot All-Ireland favouritism.

Where Gavin would have you believe that Dublin scarcely realise they are going for four-in-a-row, his Galway hurling counterpart has quickly learned to avoid making his team a hostage to fortune.

So it was at the Tribesmen's media event ahead of Sunday's Leinster SHC final against Kilkenny in Croke Park.

Donoghue was asked about The Sunday Game comments of Brendan Cummins, who had agreed with fellow panellist Michael Duignan that Galway were the team to beat.

"Absolutely," the former Tipperary keeper concurred.

"The question for Galway is that when they get to an All-Ireland semi-final, having won everything, can they take the pressure of being huge favourites to walk the All-Ireland? That will be a big challenge."

All of which seemed to ignore a certain Cats challenge first.


But Donoghue wasn't about to fall for any leading questions to the effect that Galway would only be judged on some future semi-final performance.

"We don't look that far ahead," he insisted. "That's your job, and their job, to keep talking about it. Our job is to concentrate on the next game and that's stood us in good stead."

Ergo, he's thinking of no one bar Kilkenny this week.

It's worth recalling that Galway ended 29 years in the All-Ireland wilderness without having to overcome their long-time oppressor in Black and Amber. The last time they met in a Leinster final, two years ago, Galway went into second-half reverse and lost by seven.

However, the experts are inclined to focus on their recent round-robin clash in Salthill: Galway won at relative ease, 1-22 to 2-11, having restricted the Cats to 1-2 from open play.

"The way we prepare for games, and I know everyone says it, but we're very respectful and mindful of the opposition," Donoghue stresses.

"Playing them again is going to be a massive challenge, but it's up to ourselves now. We know they're going to come wanting to win it as well. It's going to be a totally different game to the one that was in Pearse Stadium."


Beating Kilkenny the last day was, he agrees, "a big game for us in terms of it was the first one for us at home".

"We always put huge emphasis on our home games. No two games are the same anyway; that's definitely in the memory bank.

Brian Cody & Co secured their Leinster final place by dint of a spectacular comeback against Wexford - a further warning against any hint of Galway hubris.

"They came in as league champions, they have huge form behind them," Donoghue reasons.

"Obviously the Wexford game was going to be massive and they put in a massive performance. Nine points down, they showed huge team spirit and just the desire to go on."

Now Galway must match it.

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