Gerry Fahy's coaching adventure continues
By Cian O'Connell
Improving and developing have always been Gerry Fahy’s main sporting aims. Regardless of the team, code, or level, Fahy has repeatedly shown a willingness to assist those willing to work and learn.
That is why this particular EirGrid All Ireland Under 21 Championship adventure with Galway has captured Fahy’s imagination. A Sigerson Cup win with NUIG in 2003 and an Allianz League Division Two title with Offaly in 2004 were meaningful triumphs, but in the intervening years Fahy toiled off Broadway.
It was a story of grit and little glory until Oranmore/Maree captured the Galway Junior Championship last Autumn. That afternoon in Pearse Stadium, Gay Mitchell, the great former Galway goalkeeper and Fahy’s trusted advisor, had a memorable smile etched on his face.
Fahy had ended a decade long search for a cup, but while there mightn’t have been medals, many fond memories had been made. “Every group you are involved in you see it as a new challenge, it isn't necessarily that you have to win silverware, of course you want to, but you want to improve the group,” Fahy says about the years of near misses and tales of what might have been.
“You want to improve them as young men and as players, that is the ultimate objective. Sometimes losing a match might suggest you didn't achieve that, but you might have in your own way.”
Claiming the Connacht Under 21 Championship was a sweet success for Fahy with Galway following that with a stirring All Ireland Semi-Final triumph over Kerry at Cusack Park in Ennis.
“I do take satisfaction, but it is a great example to any player that it is just the nature of the game,” Fahy remarks about how relevant patience and perseverance are.
“You are going to have times when things go quite well and other times they don't. You just have to have the resilience to hang in there when it is not going so well. When the so called good days come you really appreciate them.”
Galway will bring a sense of purpose to Tullamore on Saturday for what promises to be intriguing decider against Dublin. “Absolutely, it is exactly where we wanted to be at the beginning of the year,” Fahy admits. “We have had a long, tough journey with lots of ups and downs in it, but we are really looking forward to it.
“Last year we didn't get the opportunity to progress after the first round, now we see what happens when you do. You can build up a bit of momentum, different challenges had to be faced each day so it is making for a very exciting and interesting journey.”
Off the field Fahy has constructed a solid backroom team, who bring vast and varied knowledge. Val Daly, father of Michael, remains a deeply respected coaching figure in the west; Barry Cullinane won All Ireland Under 21 medals in both codes in 2005 and is also currently part of James Horan’s Turloughmore managerial set-up; Ciaran O’Flatharta’s understanding of the game in Galway, especially in the west of the county in Connemara is reflected with six Gaeltacht clubs represented; Timmy Rabbitt has built up an impressive body of work with Athenry and Oranmore-Maree; Tomas Mannion will forever be viewed as one of the most under stated and effective footballers to have ever graced a maroon and white jersey.
At the helm is Fahy, who has enjoyed spearheading a committed bunch of players. “Yeah, we have one final test where we need to display that, but certainly so far that is the one thing that has shown through: they are able to play the game,” Fahy comments about Galway’s ability. “They've good technical skills, once they apply the work ethic with that it gives them a right good chance.”
How the unheralded figures in this Galway panel have contributed has been evident throughout the campaign in wins over Leitrim, Mayo, Sligo, and Kerry.
Fahy agrees that the roles of the talented emerging players have been crucial. “That is fair, with nearly all of the good teams that is what it takes,” Fahy states about how some players have progressed.
“Certain people will come to prominence, but you will nearly always find that it is the guys, who aren't getting the publicity or prominence, they are doing really, really effective work. They are hugely important to the team ethic.”
That these Galway players have been afforded a fitting stage to demonstrate their potential pleases Fahy. “Yeah, that surely is always the objective of the underage grade: players get a platform to develop,” Fahy remarks.
“Thankfully we've had four and we are going into our fifth game, they have all been against good quality opposition, getting tougher as we go along the road.
“So I'd say when these lads are looking back in years to come they will look at this as being a valuable time and that they were learning all along.” With Fahy and his loyal collection of selectors on the sideline, that has certainly been the case.