Pádraic Joyce is still delivering for Galway
By Cian O'Connell
Pádraic Joyce's passion for Galway football endures.
A marquee forward when the maroon and white claimed All-Ireland glory in 1998 and 2001, Joyce is now providing leadership as manager.
Preparing for a first All-Ireland final in 21 years there is a buzz and sense of anticipation around the western county ahead of Sunday's decider against Kerry at Croke Park.
After taking the job, in an interview with Galway Bay FM Joyce gave an honest assessment about what he would deem to be successful. All-Ireland glory had to be attained to accomplish that mission.
"I was asked a simple question; what was my ambition as manager of Galway and I gave an answer," he says. "That was the statement of it.
"It is not an unshakable belief. I was asked a question about my ambitions as manager, I was not going to say, “Well, I am here for the craic, I am here to win a couple of championship games and go as far as I can.
"Every team does train to win the All-Ireland. They might not say it, but they do train to win the All-Ireland and I was no different. I wanted Galway to win the All-Ireland and I still do, we haven’t won anything yet. We are on a journey this year that might help us get there - we are as close as we have ever been."
Undoubtedly it has been an adventure. With Covid restrictions in 2020 and 2021 a significant factor - Galway considering the amount of talented emerging players being integrated into the senior panel - were unfortunate.
"It is about results. It is alright saying you are going to do this, you are going to do that - that’s the ambition to do it, you might not always go and do it but you are aiming at that all the time," he says.
"That is what we wanted in Galway was people who would commit to that and go for that and this year we finally got it. We might not have had it in the last couple of years but we have it now.
"We have a bunch of players who are committed to putting their life on the line and the number one priority in their life is Galway football. That is what we need."
Building a team and panel to seriously challenge at the highest level can be difficult.
"It takes a long time," Joyce replies. "I have gone through, someone told me 86 or 87 players since I came in so again people might think I am ruthless dropping lads, but I have only ever dropped three fellows as far as I can remember.
"The rest have just not stayed involved or could not commit for different reasons and that is fine, you respect people for that because even going back there is only four or five of the squad involved since 2018 when we got to a semi-final before but these things happen.
"Since then we have built a new squad and there is a great mix in it, there is young lads and a great mix of experience and youth in it so it is great."
Doubts can enter the mind, particularly following heavy league defeats to Mayo and Kerry, but Joyce has demonstrated resilience.
"I have had a lot of moments," he acknowledges. "You know, we have had a couple of hammerings in the league, a couple of different things over the years.
"Definitely the last two years were tough enough when the game was over. No matter what when you lose a game, the first thing you hear is that they were not fit enough and the second thing is that the manager has not got a clue, no matter what game you play and it is no different at inter-county level.
"I have had a few rough nights at it and I had a lot of soul searching last July as a group, as players and management, there is no one hiding from that.
"We went away, came back and talked about it and got a different formula put together and so far it has been working, it has been great. But we need to get a result against Kerry on Sunday before the real work is done, you know."
For this campaign Joyce added to to his backrooom team with Cian O'Neill added in a coaching role. Is it among the most important decisions made?
"Yeah, it is," Joyce replies. "It is up there along with the conversation with Jonathan (Harris-Wright) and Bernard Dunne as well. The three of them have come in this year and they have done really good.
"Cian brings a huge level of experience to it, he takes a lot of the training and he is really astute, a very keen guy. He is travelling from Cork to do the job two nights a week and he is coming the weekend, he is really, really good and he has worked out really good.
"Are we bosom buddies? We are probably not. We get on well together, I respect his decisions. We have had loads of rows, don’t get me wrong.
"It is part and parcel of it, that is why we got him in was to get the little bit of experience we were lacking as a group and that I was lacking probably but he has been exceptional for us. Again as Jonathan and Bernard has."
Joyce acknowledges Dunne's contribution too. "We needed a performance type coach person and he has just brought that little bit of mental toughness to the lads that I think we were lacking," he says.
"Just how to cope in tight situations and pressure situations. His record speaks for itself with what he has done with boxing in Ireland and the Dublin football team. He has been a huge addition as well."
Ultimately, Joyce was delighted to accept the opportunity to manage the Galway footballers. "It is something I always wanted to do, become a manager," he explains.
"I always wanted to play for Galway obviously, start with club Killererin. Play with Galway, retire. Take a few years out, try and create a family all that sorted in the background."
Balancing football, family, and work can be a challenge, but pleasant moments have been sampled.
"In fairness my wife Tracey and kids, they are great," he adds. "They are really into football, Tracey is getting into it. The kids are into it. We are enjoying it.
"It is something I wanted to do and that is why I did it. It was for three years and this is my third year of it, I said at the start what I wanted to do and we are almost there in the third year. It would be great to finish the job."