By Cian O’Connell for gaa.ie

It is more than simply an age thing; Derek McGrath and Micheal Donoghue have forged a friendship.

The respect runs deep as the Waterford and Galway managers prepare for Sunday’s All Ireland SHC Final at Croke Park.

“Yeah, we are of the same vintage,” Donoghue says about how they stay in contact. “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 really passionate.

“The biggest thing I find is that if you ring him, you can have a chat with him and hop things off him. He’s been good for me.”

McGrath has forged a significant relationship with his players, something that has struck Donoghue.

“There is great unity, a huge bond,” Donoghue admits. “There is huge trust there. Looking at any team, you want a huge unity and a huge spirit. I think they have that in abundance.”

Back in 1992 McGrath and Donoghue hurled in the All Ireland minor final. “He is still traumatised by it,” Donoghue jokes.

“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 is good.”

Donoghue deserves credit for the cool and sensible manner in which he has managed Galway for the past two years.

The Clarinbridge native is quick to praise selectors Noel Larkin and Francis Forde, while also highlighting the role being played by the accomplished duo of David Morris and Damien Joyce.

“I think when I came into the job – the management team you put in is very important,” Donoghue remarks. “Noel, Franny, Dave Morris and Damien Joyce. We work really well together. When there is huge unity and the players can see that everyone knows their role and responsibility, there are no egos. That creates huge unity.

“We were under no illusions when we came in that the boys had massive experience. We keep saying to them that they have to keep drawing from the good and bad.”

Donoghue hasn’t been afraid to look to other coaches and codes for advice. “At the start of the year, we set our own goals as to where we wanted to go,” Donoghue states. “Look, it has gone well for us to date. We are always learning as well.

“That is why it is good to talk to different managers and get different perspectives from different sports, see what works well. It is something I always did with the club.

“I’ve spoken to Pam Lam, Eric Elwood, all those boys. It is great to get a different perspective.”

The response from the Galway sporting public has been positive according to Donoghue. “Once we met the players, it was one of the first things we said that we have to try to create a team where they want to come out to support us,” Donoghue acknowledges.

“And if we come out with the right attitude and we’ve always emphasised the responsibility that goes with wearing the crest on your chest.

“The boys have really brought into that. No more than any other sport, if people see you are working hard and trying to be the best you can be, you will get the support.

“For the duration of the Championship, we have got massive support. Hopefully that will continue.”

An expectant Galway crowd is set to arrive at the Jones Road venue on Sunday. Waterford will bring similar hope and ambition so there won’t be any shortage of suspense or drama.

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