Galway's Michael Donoghue hoping to leave a lasting legacy
MICHEÁL Donoghue’s playing career wasn’t what it might have been. Three back operations, the first at 19 and the last at 27, were as lasting a legacy as the All-Ireland minor and under-21 titles he won.
While his twin brother Liam went on to establish himself in the Galway side, Donoghue played just one season of Championship hurling in 1996.
The hurling world is a small one, though. He will stand 20 yards up the line from Derek McGrath on Sunday, some 25 years after the pair of them ended up marking each other in an All-Ireland minor decider.
“He is still traumatised by it,” chucked the Clarinbridge man.
“I remember he was playing. It is not that I remember any huge aspect of the game. I wish it wasn’t 25-years ago. It is kind of mad that after 25 years the two of us will be on the sideline. It’s good.
“I think he is doing a massive job down there. Obviously, he has more experience at this level than I have. Because we are of the same vintage, we made contact last year. Not that we’d contact each other regularly.
“Different periods over the year, we hopped things off each other. He is someone I have huge respect for, the way he carries himself, the relationship he has with his own players is something we can all learn from.
“He is real passionate. The biggest thing I find is that if you ring them, you can have a chat with him and hop things off him. He’s been good for me.”
After helping his club win their first ever county title as a player in 2001, Donoghue then managed them to their second in 2010.
Having retired from playing altogether at the age of 28, he had been straight into coaching with Galway under-21s in 2005 and ended up on the backroom as they won two All-Irelands in three years at the grade.
A decade on from the second of those – from which only Joe Canning and Aidan Harte remain - he stands as very much his own man.
He went to get involved in Tipperary's backroom under Eamon O'Shea and the idea of mourning what he potentially missed out on as a player is alien.
“[Management] helps fill the gap, but I just had a huge passion for it. No matter what length of time I played, I always wanted to get into the management and coaching side of it.
“When I finished at 28, rather than taking time off, Vincent Mullins afforded me the opportunity to get straight in. Once I was in, that was it.
“I don’t really dwell on it. I had a decent career. We won two county titles with the club, I was captain for one and I was manager for the second. I was happy with my innings.”
After 29 years of being the nearly men, this will be the county’s eighth All-Ireland final appearance (including replays) since they last brought Liam MacCarthy home.
They had to step over the hurdle of Tipperary on their way, just as they did two years ago in the first of three consecutive epic semi-finals, all of which have been decided by a single point.
The hunger to bridge that gap hasn’t been enough in their previous September appearances and it could be no stronger a motivation for them than for their opponents Waterford, who haven’t won one since 1959.
One thing that might fall in their favour is their experience of all this. Twelve of the players he is likely to use on Sunday were involved two years ago as they lost to arch-nemesis Kilkenny.
Only Kevin Moran, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and current selector Dan Shanahan remain in the Déise camp from their sobering final experience in 2008.
“I think, obviously, we have the numerical advantage in terms of having that experience, but from Waterford, that a few of their players have played in an All-Ireland will stand to them. I don’t think it gives us a massive advantage,” says Donoghue.
“This is most certainly bigger than the last time. Of course, you have to try and enjoy it. We’re lucky enough that a lot of the lads have experience of an All-Ireland final. The novel pairing will means there will be a great atmosphere at it. Obviously, you’re just delighted to be part of it.”