WHILE there was no Cork team present on All-Ireland senior and minor hurling final day, there was at least some Rebel involvement as Galway claimed the minor title for the second successive year.
Having won the last U18 title by beating Cork in 2017, the Tribesmen were victorious in the first U17 minor championship (Cork did win a stand-alone U17 last year) and Skibbereen native Gordon Crowley was part of Jeffrey Lynskey’s backroom team.
After college, Crowley spent two years in Wicklow – he won a Division 3 national hurling league medal with the Garden County – and pitched up in Galway in 1998.
‘I thought it would just be a case of getting experience for a couple of years and coming home,’ he says, ‘but you meet a girl, buy a house and put down roots. Eventually, my mother stopped sending me the ads for jobs at home!’
Crowley threw his lot in with Liam Mellows, for whom he played at senior level before being involved as a selector for a few years. When parenthood prevented him being hands-on in terms of attending sessions, he was asked to help out on the analysis side of thing.
‘I’ve a scientific background,’ he says, ‘so I’d be analytical by nature.
‘Brian Hanley was manager back in 2009 and he asked me to do that, he was a selector then with Anthony Cunningham for the Galway U21s in 2010 and ’11 so he brought me in with him.
‘Galway won the U21 All-Ireland in 2011 and I was involved with the senior team in 2012 and ’13 after Anthony took over that. I took a break for a few years then but Jeff Lynskey is a clubmate and he asked me if I wanted to do a similar role when he became minor manager.’
Operating as an analyst where the players are teenagers is quite different to doing so for seniors. ‘You see a huge change over the course of the year,’ Crowley says.
‘At the start, we’re assisting the coaches in showing the players certain concepts, it’s like modules of coaching info that you give visually as the players understand that a lot better.
‘It’s all positivity so that the players don’t feel like it’s the same as school and they’ll be reprimanded. Then, over time, you start pushing it back to the players, asking them how they would act differently in a certain situation.
‘By the end of the year, they’ll be telling you things they’ve spotted in the five-minute videos you’ve sent and it’s very sayisfying to see that change.’
The results are certainly there to see, from Crowley’s and Galway’s point of view.
‘We had three new selectors this year, and obviously a whole new team, the one year different is huge,’ he says.
‘Last year, Cork were the best team technically, but we managed to impose our gameplan and get the match-ups right, to win against the head, as it were.
‘This year, we were the favourites going in so the target was on our back, it was about staying ahead as Kilkenny were improving all the time.’
As well as playing a key role in the Galway academy structure, Crowley was also a selector for one of two squads in the Celtic Challenge this year. And, when the time allows, he also drops in to see how his native Skibb are doing.
‘When I’m down home, I’ll always call in to the lads to give a session,’ he says.
‘I’d be friendly with Conor Hallahan and my brothers are still involved too, so it’s good to give a hand.’