Micheál Donoghue and sons, Miko and Galway's pursuit of All-Ireland happiness

By Peter McNamara

Sportsfile photographers Seb Daly and Brendan Moran captured a particularly wonderful moment for Galway manager Micheál Donoghue’s family in the moments after Fergal Horgan blew the full-time whistle at Croke Park last Sunday.

In these pictures, Donoghue is sharing success with his sons Niall, Con and Cian. And the joy etched on their faces best illustrates what triumphing meant to Micheál’s family, and to the people of west.

Then, last night, INPHO’s Morgan Treacy captured another moment in time as Donoghue meets his own father Miko for the first time with the Liam McCarthy Cup. Treacy arguably produced the picture of the year among that series of snaps.

The beauty of all these photographs is that they encapsulate a lifetime of hope and the pure fulfilment of reaching a pinnacle long overdue.

In those seconds, Miko and Micheál Donoghue might have realised that the pursuit of happiness does have a joyful ending.

In Saturday’s Irish Examiner, Derek McGrath explained to John Fogarty how finding a family-GAA duties balance is often one he does not get correct as often as he would like.

Sometimes, during the razzmatazz of the build-up to occasions like county, provincial and national finals, we lose sight of those in the background, the wives, husbands, partners, parents, children and friends.

When, in fact, they are just as integral to the whole production as the management and players themselves.

Were it not for their selflessness, we might not have Donoghue and McGrath guiding their counties to an All-Ireland final.

The families really do give up as much as those directly involved sacrifice.

In fact, if anything, the families sacrifice even more, and with far less of a reward if success is earned by their flesh and blood.

Donoghue’s sons must have been bursting with pride looking on as their father received plaudits from every corner of headquarters.

Seeing his young fella Con completely taken by the moment was unbelievably refreshing because as much as the little man was overwhelmed by it all, what an amazing memory he will have for the rest of his life, a memory he can share with his kids and grandkids. After all, there are not too many sons and daughters can say their father led his county to the Promised Land, is there?

And it was moments just like that, just like Joe Canning embracing his family at the side of the pitch, that made Sunday so unique, so definitive, so special.

Captain and RTÉ Man of the Match, David Burke referenced their network of support on a number of occasions on Sunday evening while in front of the cameras. The same, obviously, could be said of Waterford.

While all these players and management team members will be splashed all over the front and back pages this week you can rest assured it is the pictures they will have taken with their families and friends at Citywest Hotel or on their journey back across the Shannon that will mean more to them in time than any snap a professional will have taken along the way.

Yet, as exceptions to that theory, Daly’s, Moran’s and Treacy’s contributions to the Donoghues’ recollections of All-Ireland final-day 2017 will be cherished.

Furthermore, there is something incredibly classy about how Donoghue and McGrath conduct themselves. Of course, it seems, in terms of their personalities, they differ – Donoghue is more reserved, keeps his cards closer to his chest – but both characters have added fresh dynamics to the managerial scene this year, just as Kieran Kingston has.

McGrath was always quite forthcoming and honest in his assessment of, well, every facet of the game and issues surrounding it. Yet, even he, this year, has been even more candid, more open, than in previous seasons.

Donoghue, though, has contributed in a more understated fashion to the summer, but there is an endearing mystique about him.

Tactically, it was obvious how clued in he was from earlier this year, even during the league.

However, reservations remained as to Galway’s capacity to ultimately succeed, not due to question marks hanging over Donoghue, but specifically regarding the mentality of the county set-up as an entity due to past failings.

Yet, Donoghue’s greatest achievement is in topping up on the resilience they have been accruing these last few years.

And, in fairness to the man, Donoghue was at pains to stress the contributions made of managers before him.

Of course, it’s no one-man band and those Donoghue surrounded himself with have also complemented the structures that were in development since Anthony Cunningham’s time at the helm.

Nevertheless, Donoghue’s subtle tweaks have facilitated the leap Galway have engineered this year.

The Sunday Game panel fell over themselves to give centre-back Gearóid McInerney their RTÉ Hurler of the Year award.

And, certainly, he was exemplary in both the All-Ireland semi-final and final. Still, it was in adjusting Joe Canning’s positioning on the field that has really differentiated between the Tribesmen being champions and also-rans. Again.

Canning’s selflessness is symbolic of the attitude implemented by the entire group this campaign. No longer are the westerners all about Joe. The collective is the driving force. Not Joe Canning and Joe Canning only.

And because of that, the Portumna man has produced the cleverest hurling of his career.

It’s silly when people assume he will be absolutely outrageously productive in every game. That is simply unrealistic.

However, I would argue, for the first campaign in his career, he has truly led Galway, by doing less subconscious worrying about trying to ‘compensate’ for those around him.

Donoghue, though, has created that environment around Canning.

Returning to David Burke for a minute, it was a mark of the man that in his speech the St Thomas’ star referenced the importance of mental health and Pieta House, in remembrance of the late Niall Donoghue.

The likes of Donoghue, McGrath, Canning and Burke represent everything great about the Association.

As do the people behind them, those away from the field of play, and the bright lights.


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