Brian Hanley eager to help Galway minors develop
By Cian O'Connell
For Brian Hanley hurling can teach players so much about life and values.
Eager to assist youngsters on their own personal sporting journeys, Hanley is simply relishing being in charge of the Galway minor team, who face a highly regarded Wexford outfit in Sunday’s Electric Ireland Championship Semi-Final at Croke Park.
That was the venue for some of Hanley’s finest moments for Athenry with a couple of his long range scores in the 2000 AIB All Ireland Club decider over Doora-Barefield still fondly recalled.
Since then, though, Hanley has busied himself preparing teams at various levels of the game and is delighted to take charge of a Galway outfit that impressed in wins over Kilkenny and Clare during the past fortnight.
“We are very satisfied, they are a great bunch of lads, we have a good management team, the set-up is very good,” Hanley says. “We are all really enjoying it. We are having great fun with this project, hopefully that will lead to another good performance on Sunday.”
Hanley remains adamant that the role of the Galway minor management is to ensure that hurlers are crafted for the future. It is critical with Hanley stressing the manner in which Connacht Hurling Director Damien Coleman has implemented a system in the west.
“Our whole mantra is the pathway for these guys to play senior hurling, to create the environment that they will learn and develop in, that when they go to Under 20s it will be nothing new to them,” Hanley remarks.
“They will just be physically stronger and that they will have learned a lot from a mindset point of view that will enable them to develop further.
“Eventually we will get these players in three to four years maybe playing senior hurling for Galway. Then you can look back to say this was a proper project. It is coming from the Academy, from 14 up.
“There is great work going on in the Galway Academy, Damien Coleman has an awful lot of work put in place. It is a credit to him and to his system.
“I think we are bearing fruit, but maybe we haven't fully got the last bit of it right from finishing minor to playing senior. That is what we are really working on and concentrating on now.”
One chief area of interest for Hanley is establishing a culture and value system within the group that can help them flourish both on and off the field of play.
“We place a huge emphasis on our values,” Hanley admits. “I did a values night for all the coaches in Galway a couple of months back, a presentation on the values of the Academy system in Galway.
“We have created our own values. We had Kevin O'Brien and Joe Canney, who are involved with Corofin, they came in facilitated us with workshops on our value system and encouraging our values.
“The players have come up with their own values, we carry them, not only with this minor set-up, but carry them in life. Some of them will do their Leaving Certificate next year, some of them will go to college, some of them will get jobs in the next couple of years.
“That is what they go back to. If you are an employer that is what you look for, the values in people. It is a whole process of development within you as a person and within the team environment. It is for life, it isn't just for hurling.”
During the past decade the spread of clubs represented on Galway teams in every age group is growing with Hanley acknowledging the structure that has been manufactured.
“It goes back to the Academy system because nobody is being forgotten about,” Hanley comments. “One time if you made Under 14, that was it, you made 16s, 18s, and 21s. Now there is so many Academy teams - 14, 16, look at it with the Celtic Challenge.
“Last year we trialled 170 odd kids at Under 16 level excluding those that were in the Academy and county minors. We had all of them again in this year. We had 80 guys in on January 5, 80 sets of parents and guardians to start up again.
“They made up our minor panel of 32 and the rest made up the Celtic Challenge. One team played another in the semi-final and one of them went on to win the final. That just shows how strong it is, but they aren't forgotten about. They are still getting the opportunities to play.”
Galway have used the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge wisely with players being integrated into the minor panel. It confirms how so many hurlers have seized opportunities throughout the Celtic Challenge which was also the case in 2018.
“Look at our team last Saturday - Tiernan Killeen played centre back in the Celtic Challenge final this year,” Hanley adds. “Niall Glynn was on it, he was a sub the last day for us.
“Colm Molloy came on the last day, Sean O'Hanlon came on, he was on the Celtic Challenge team, he scored four points for us.
“They have all had game time, Conor Slattery is on our panel, he was playing in the Celtic Challenge. We've had seven or eight guys playing in the Celtic Challenge, the same as Jeffrey had last year. Sean McDonagh played in the Celtic Challenge last year, it gives them exposure to a higher level that gets them ready to play at an even higher level.”
Hanley patrolled the sideline for Westmeath coming close to causing some Championship shocks, but was delighted to return to get involved with his native Galway in the underage ranks.
“Unfortunately my dad died three years ago so that put me on the backburner regarding hurling for a while,” Hanley reflects.
“Fergal (Healy) asked me in with the Under 16s and I actually did the Under 16s B for two years and when Fergal didn't take it last year I took it, we had a good run in that.
“It is a great level to be at, there are timeframes in it so it is very easy to operate and work in it, everyone wants to be there with you. It is a great set-up. The Galway set-up is a great set-up, people have negative voices about Galway, but it is very, very good.
“It is enjoyable, I have very good people with me like Fergal Healy, Declan O'Brien, Ciaran Callanan, Keith Daniels, and Brendan Egan, our coach, just to name a few. Great people willing to put their shoulder to the wheel, to help out.”
Hanley’s desire for the maroon and white of Athenry or Galway should never be underestimated either.