Hawkeye Sidekick

Galway Hurling

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Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time’s supposed to heal ya, but I ain’t done much healing

Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in Clarinbridge (California) dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet

There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles

Adele has penned the perfect summary of the turmoil currently in hurling circles West of the Shannon. The news that Anthony Cunningham and backroom staff resigned from their position as Senior Hurling supremos was no surprise but the sequence of events which led today has left a bad taste in the mouth. The players coup will be seen by traditionalists as another blow to the GAA association, the further undermining of a county board and clubs who sanctioned the appointment of Cunningham and selectors back last September. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the sorry saga and there is plenty of blame to go round.

Management Review

Galway hurling managerial appointments are a poison chalice. Depending on where the internal county candidate is from, rumors of preferential treatment for certain players from a particular location are not far away. Anthony Cunningham’s managerial credentials prior to this appointment were excellent with All Ireland club success to the resume. Furthermore, Cunningham’s backroom staff appeared to appease concerns on preferential treatment. The 2012 season was a positive one for Galway. The first Leinster SHC title win was one for the record books, the free hurling style of Galway on the day propelled Anthony Cunningham to the national sporting conscience. Yes, Galway succumbed to Kilkenny in the All Ireland Hurling replay but the hurling world were now talking about Galway as viable All Ireland contenders. The classic Galway consistency issues surfaced in 2013 and 2014 with disappointing years, management have to take the blame for this and it looked like a similar trend in the 2015 NHL season when Galway underwhelmed throughout the league campaign but just did enough to secure their top flight status. The Championship predictions did not have Galway featuring but after a draw against Dublin in the quarter final (lucky to share the spoils) emphatically exposed Dublin defensively to kick their season into gear. This performance saw the emergence of the Mannion brothers. Jason Flynn and Johnatan Glynn to supplement the work load and scoring from Joe Canning. The Leinster final may have seen Kilkenny victorious but there was enough in the Galway performance to suggest that the Tribesmen could pose issues for anyone in the All Ireland series. This assessment was further enhanced by a thumping victory over Cork and then came the game of the year, a one point win over Tipperary in the All Ireland semi-final. The game showed all that is good in Galway hurling; physicality and skill were in perfect harmony and their fitness down the stretch deservedly won the tie. The All Ireland hurling final will be remembered for what may have or not transpired in the Galway dressing room at the interval break. Instead of pushing on, Galway flat out did not not perform in the second half allowing Kilkenny to control the tempo and put away in the last quarter. Cunningham and management post game could not pinpoint the lack of performance in the second half, a concern for anyone associated with Galway hurling. Rumors during the 2015 season of player unrest were rife within the county; playing panel displeasure at management style, training and match day tactics were public knowledge. These issues required clear the air talks but none obviously took place to the point that Cunningham and management were now isolated  and forlorn figures; sad considering these people should be driving the hurling programme to higher levels. The management in this predicament had to go but constructive discussions with players were required – head strong approach backfired.

Players Review

The Galway Senior Hurling panel obviously had reasons for complaint but the manner of how they went about resolving these issues were at best secretive but predominantly cowardly. Galway’s slant of player power meant meeting in Clarinbridge under the guise of deciding an end of season holiday but the purpose was to set the wheels in motion to undermine Cunningham and management to the point of forcing them to resign. The leaked reports to the media were wholly unprofessional; the senior players who appear to have instigated these discussions must look themselves in the mirror. Would they expect to receive the same treatment if they were in Anthony Cunningham’s shoes? Their employers surely have to ask character issues on if they do this outside work, do they have the capability to launch a similar stunt in the work place? The Cork hurlers were ridiculed for their treatment of Gerard McCarthy but at least they showed their courage of their convictions and issued statements in public to air their grievances of management and county board. The Galway hurling panel flat out failed to show any backbone in this sorry saga. Their purported infighting at half-time in the All Ireland Hurling final was seen in full view here as well. Any new prospective manager would be slow to take on such a job considering the character of several players in the current panel? The panel is diseased and the troublemakers (prolific or not) need to be dropped and start afresh. 26-6 vote would suggest that the young players of the panel were forced into an uncomfortable situtation; rumor mill had suggested that St Thomas’ and young players who joined the panel supported the management, this changed in recent weeks when pressure was obviously applied by senior panel members. The word backbone and the current Galway Senior Hurling panel do not go hand in hand at this time.

County Board

The Galway Hurling County Board come out of this debacle with embarrassment and humiliation. How can a board ratify a management team when the playing squad had serious issues in most aspects of the setup? How could the board not appoint a mediator during the season to nip any tensions between the two parties? How can the board be regarded as the barometer for Galway hurling good when a saga such as this is played out under their watch. Tough questions indeed but this is a board which has being embroiled in controversy for several years. Their inability to manage and execute championship rules in recent years has being well documented, the delay in running off the Galway SHC final is baffling considering that all other counties have played their championship out several weeks ago. Galway’s hurling club culture is one of total mistrust so how can a county with massive potential succeed at intercounty level? The officiating situation in the county has contributed to this fact (James Regan’s point for St Thomas ruled out against Loughrea in this year’s County SHC and who could not forget the Johnny Maher’s best impersonation of Mortal Kombat a couple of years ago in the County SHC final and did not get sent off). No wonder the clubs cannot trust the board, officials to do the right thing. Massive incrimination surely is going to be aimed at the county hurling board as the clubs voted for Cunningham. Player power has won again and the clubs will be asking what their remit is considering these sad circumstances?

Who takes on the managerial reins?

This role is a poison chalice. Ger Loughane’s Galway reign surely will ward off the likes of Anthony Daly and Donal O’Grady from the role. A “foreign” manager is doomed to failure in this county. The candidates have to come from the usual hurling spots. Geoff Lynskey would be high on the managerial candidates, won a memorable minor title with a team which was not given a chance in Galway. Johnny Kelly will arouse the support of Portumna but a distinct lack of success in U21 grade will undermine his challenge. Mattie Murphy and Matty Kenny have glowing resumes but will the players accept the appointment? This is an incredibly difficult appointment for the county hurling board. Any new manager will need buy in from the panel and it is hard to see that the clubs will allow the players to dictate again.  If there is a dark horse for the job, the ex-Tipperary hurling manager Eamon O’Shea (resides in Galway) would be a choice that all parties could potentially agree upon but whether the Tipperary native has the stomach to heal the wounds opened since the All Ireland defeat in September remains to be seen. I would not touch the job with a barge pole considering the characters in the squad who at the first sign of trouble will try to undermine and isolate you and backroom staff. Galway’s 2016 season already is spiraling out of control. The resignation of Cunningham means little now; more developments to this saga will be emerge in recent weeks and could be dirtier than a Christmas Special down in Walford Square. Limerick Hurlers, you are off the hook. Galway Hurlers are now the experts at how not to launch a coup on the manager. To conclude, I will let Adele finish off the article.

Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart
Anymore, ooooohh
Anymore, ooooohh
Anymore, ooooohh
Anymore, anymore

Hello from the other side
I must’ve called a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home

Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart
But it don’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart
Anymore