FORMER TRIBE CAPTAIN David Collins believes retaining the All-Ireland crown would be an even more impressive feat for Galway that last September’s success.
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The Tribesmen ended a 29-year drought without the Liam MacCarthy in 2017 after a five-game run, but they’ve already played eight games this summer. They haven’t been beaten yet and Collins believes the standard of their opposition this year is greater than it was 12 months ago.
“I think this year would be way more impressive if they win it because of the teams that they’ve played and the amount of games that they’ve played,” Collins said at the launch of the Asian Gaelic Games.
“When you look at it last year they had no run against Kilkenny and had a nice All-Ireland win. Now they had to play Kilkenny three times and beat them twice, and then turn around and play Clare twice.
“It’s a different ball game, they’ll have played nine games running into this. It’s a fair feat for them to actually go on and win it the next day. They’re going to be up against it, no doubt. I do believe they’ll win it. It’s been a fantastic year so far. I had confidence they would go all the way.”
Gearoid McInerney is believed to be Galway’s only real injury doubt as they prepare to face Limerick on Sunday. The All-Star centre-back missed the semi-final replay win over Clare with a calf injury but is expected to take his place behind the marching band on Sunday.
Collins accepts it’s a risk and warns that a half-fit player has no business starting an All-Ireland final. If McInerney doesn’t make it, he has confidence Micheal Donoghue will make the required alterations.
“The talk is that he’ll be back in. Knowing McInerney he’ll fight for every minute of it. That’s going to be a call for Micheal to make. As a player you want to go play every game and whether you’re injured or not you’re going to say, ‘I’m fine.’
David Collins was at the launch of the 23rd Asian Gaelic Games sponsored by Irish international fintech company Fexco. The 2018 Fexco Asian Gaelic Games will take place on November 17th and 18th in Bangkok, Thailand. Featuring 65 teams from 20 clubs from across 18 countries in Asia, the Fexco Asian Gaelic Games will see more than 800 Irish and non-Irish GAA players come together to battle it out in over 200 fixtures.
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“It really is going to have to be an honest call from him to say whether he’s 80% or 90%. If he’s no better than 90% then I wouldn’t be putting him in.
“Until you’re on that pitch of championship pace, you’re not going to know. You will never push yourself in training matches to the level you will at championship pace no matter how hard you try. He’ll not have three weeks of hurling done so he’s going to be under pressure. He’ll be training and pucking the ball but he won’t be at that pace.
“But then again you look at the people who’ve stepped back in there, Joe Cooney to the half-back line and Niall Burke steps in and is a fair addition to the team. If he’s out, I wouldn’t write them off. I’d still give them a fantastic chance.”
Despite the extra games they’ve played this year, Collins doesn’t feel Galway have matched their levels of aggression of last season.
“Galway are in your face physically, get on the breaking ball and hit hard. They haven’t been doing that as much this year, the intensity last year was way higher.
“It’s difficult to keep that going. They’ve one more game now and they need to get that aggression level back. I do think they have it in them. They haven’t shown it this year yet but they do have it.”
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In each of their last three games, Galway have burst into commanding early leads before being reeled back in by their opponents.
Collins calls the pattern of letting teams back into the game “baffling” but says they’ve gained enormous confidence from winning tight games.
“Once you start winning it’s a different ball game when you’re used to it. You nearly go and there and expect to win. You expect that no matter what a team throws at you, you’re able to cope with it and you don’t panic.
“That’s what Galway are showing the last while. The Dublin team showed that. They might go down a point or two but they don’t panic. They just relax and (trust) it will come back. Galway have shown that character all this year.
“They really have shown massive leadership to go 10 points up and let a team back at them, which baffles with me to be honest with you. Then they’ll go out again and destroy you for 15 minutes and let a team back in the next day.
“It’s hard to put that into context. I remember a few situations like that when things hadn’t gone well. It’s fierce frustrating when you’re a back and the ball is raining in as quick as it’s going out.”
He suspects the weather conditions may have something to play with their lapses during games.
“Although, how do you keep going for 25/30 minutes in 25-degree temperature. It’s been a phenomenal year weather wise and lads seem to hit fatigue point a bit quicker.”
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For Collins, the key for Limerick is finding a way to get Aaron Gillane into the game, putting a man-marker on Shane Dowling when he is introduced and, most importantly, avoiding the pre-All-Ireland final hype that they’ve been so wary of.
“It’s going to be an education for Limerick whereas Galway have the experience of being there the last couple of years – be it a semi-final or final. The hype isn’t as much as what it was which is great from a Galway point of view.
“I don’t know if Limerick is the same way and if it isn’t they could be in trouble. If that hype gets into the players at all it’s going to be hard to keep it down. Galway have experienced it at this stage so it’s a good way to have it.
“One of the biggest problems with hype is actually the tickets issue, when people start looking for tickets. The best thing to do is keep it away from the players altogether. But it does seep in and the hype does seep.
“John Kiely protected his players last week with the whole letters to managers issue which was a great tactic. It does take the heat off them and onto him. That’s what a good manager will do.”
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The Liam Mellows defender retired from inter-county duty at the end of 2016, a year before they begin this unprecedented run of success.
“I was happy enough at the time walking away because there was a great bunch of Galway players there.
“Did I want to hang around for another year or two? No. I wanted to give the commitment to the club. The decision wasn’t made lightly but you live and die by the sword. I was injury free at the time and I wasn’t making the Galway team. I had two years done as a sub and I wanted to give the time to the club.
“I’m delighted to say I know the boys still. Last year was class when they won the All-Ireland I knew them all. You could still call them up and meet them for a pint afterwards. If they’d won it five or six years down the road you wouldn’t have had the same connection to them.
“It still very much felt like I was part of it. Not anymore now, not this year it’s different. But last year was and it was a nice feeling. It eased the transition into not playing with them.”
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