Francis Forde enjoying Galway role
By Cian O'Connell
Since last hoisting Liam MacCarthy in 1988 Galway’s silverware collection features six All Ireland under 21 titles, nine minor crowns, one Leinster Championship, and five Allianz Hurling League triumphs.
Selector Francis Forde was a colleague of current manager Micheal Donoghue in the 1992 minor and 1996 League winning teams.
Wexford punished Galway in a famous 1996 All Ireland Semi-Final, but Forde is well placed to discuss dealing with rising expectations in the west.
The well regarded Turloughmore coach, who guided St Rynagh’s to Offaly SHC success last year, feels that the current Galway panel are able to embrace the challenge.
“While the age profile of the team is still quite young most of them have been around for a few years at this stage,” Forde says to GAA.ie.
“They know the ins and outs of it by now. They have learned maybe the hard way, to ignore some of the talk that goes on outside the camp. The focus has been very much internal, from day to day and week to week we have just worked on our own things within.
"You can see the belief coursing through them with everything they do."
“In fairness to the players they have bought into that and we are all of the time looking for the one per cent here and the two per cent there because the margins are so tiny. You might look at us for the past few games and say we are coming out with big winning margins and we are, but a hurling game can change on the smallest of things, just a little momentum shift here or there.
“That can change the entire game, we are conscious of that and the lads against Offaly handled things pretty well on the field. Offaly for example, we didn't expect the double sweeper, but once you are out there it is very hard to get messages on to the field. It was up to the lads themselves, that is what you want, lads to take more responsibility themselves. They have been doing that.”
Now Galway face Wexford in a novel and intriguing Leinster decider. Davy Fitzgerald’s sterling work with Wexford has been one of the great 2017 GAA success stories so far.
Forde has been impressed with Wexford, who defeated Galway in Division 1B of the Allianz Hurling League in February.
“Absolutely, you can see the belief coursing through them with everything they do,” Forde admits. “The Kilkenny match when Kilkenny got the goals in the second half, that is where you really look, they didn't get rattled.
“They went down and got their points again, kept that bit of daylight in it. That is a sign of the belief that is coursing through them and there is no doubt from our point of view that it is going to be a massive challenge.”
Wexford’s ability to ‘finish strongly’ is something Galway have identified according to Forde. “We have played them already, they came out on the right side of the result that day. There wasn't much in it, but they finished the game very strongly.
“It is very much in our minds how strongly they finished that game. From our point of view we want to ensure that we are competitive and that we match their intensity and energy levels. These games tend to be won in the last 10 minutes, we hope to be still there in the last 10 minutes.
“When the questions are really asked we hope will have the answers, right now sitting here we don't know if we have the answers, but we have worked on a lot of things. Until the real hard questions are asked we won't know.
“That is fair enough, it is the same for any team, but that is where we want to get to. In the last 10 minutes when that game is there to be won, can we do it? A massive challenge, but one we are looking forward to.”
"Being out on the field trying to put what you believe about hurling, the way it should be played, trying to get that into a team is a great challenge of course, but it is one I'm really enjoying."
Operating at the highest level of the game is something Forde relishes. Seeking to bring glory to Galway is what Forde, Noel Larkin, and Donoghue are actively trying to do.
“Of course, at the end of the day you are dealing with fellas who are absolutely professional in everything but name,” Forde states.
“They are mad keen to improve, there is a desire to constantly improve, to try to get better individually and collectively.
“When you get the opportunity out on the field with a group of lads at this level, yeah, of course you enjoy it. What I enjoy most is being out on the field.
“Some of the work we have to do in the background is more of a chore for me, but being out on the field trying to put what you believe about hurling, the way it should be played, trying to get that into a team is a great challenge of course, but it is one I'm really enjoying.
“It is a great position to be in, a real honour to be doing that in your own county, to try to get them a step further along the ladder.”