The nearly men of hurling. That was Galway before Micheal Donoghue took over as manager in December 2015.
The Clarinbridge man stepped down last night after four years in charge, surprising many who assumed he would fulfill the final year of his term in 2020. In four years, he won two Leinster titles, a National League, and of course, ended that famine of 29 years in 2017.
We all know that Mayo lost nine All-Ireland football finals between 1989 and 2017, but less remember their near neighbours' record was almost as bad in hurling. Between 1990 and 2015, Galway lost six All-Ireland finals in a row. And that was when they were making finals.
Anthony Cunningham had gotten them closer than anybody in that time. When Donoghue took over, it was questioned whether Galway could lift themselves again. The way things ended with Cunningham left a bad taste. There was always going to be extra pressure. Two Tipperary goals in two minutes ended the dream in year one - the second of the Galway/Tipp semi-final trilogy. Once again, they weren't far away. But was this to be more of the same? Still the nearly men.
The following year, Galway won the treble - the League, Leinster, and the All-Ireland. They were the best team in the country and, more importantly, believed it themselves.
Donoghue's work undoubtedly built on the work of what had come before him and wouldn't have been possible without a special group of players. But those players thrived under their new manager. Joe Canning and David Burke's leadership became all the more noticeable, players like Conor Whelan and Daithi Burke went up a level, while the likes of Padraig Mannion and Gearóid McInterney emerged as elite hurlers.
Without the injured Canning, 2019 was a struggle, but like Tipperary in 2018, they were a couple of pucks of the ball and freak results away from getting through, and who knows where the summer would have taken them?
In sport, we're always looking forward. The focus will quickly turn to Donoghue's replacement and Galway fans will fret over their ability to get back to an All-Ireland final. There is a serious worry in Galway about the lack of new blood pushing their way on to the first 15, but three All-Ireland minor titles in a row suggest this won't be a problem for long.
But as we quickly move on, it's easy to forget the special moments. After 29 years and six All-Ireland final defeats, Galway's win over Waterford in 2017 was a special sports' moment. Michael Duignan almost broke into tears on the full time whistle. The players remembered the late Niall Donoghue and Tony Keady. David Burke made one of the great All-Ireland speeches.
In the middle of it all, Micheál Donoghue took his own satisfaction. He'd become the only manager other than Cyril Farrell to guide Galway to the Liam MacCarthy since 1923. Sportsfile caught the emotions of the moment perfectly. We hope these are the memories Donoghue and Galway fans cherish as we move on into the future.