As one of the country's finest hurlers for the best part of a decade, David Burke has seen, done, and won it all.
Galway's captain fantastic has once again been one of the driving forces in Míchéal Donoghue's side as he looks to add to his All-Ireland club medal, U21s winners, four All Stars, two league winner's medal, a Fitzgibbon Cup, a couple of Leinster titles as well as as that famous All-Ireland senior winning medal from last year's glorious campaign.
Sunday will be his fourth All-Ireland final in seven seasons so he is well used to the build up to the biggest occasion in hurling, yet he says the best a player can do is just treat it like a normal puck about with his teammates.
"We are treating it as a normal game. You try and keep the preparation the same for whatever game, whether it is challenge or Championship. Obviously there is less time going into a final than hurlers would be used to but that is just the format of the Championship this year.
"There is always pressure on every game. We are the worst for putting pressure on ourselves. Players want to get better and Galway people are more hungry for success and this team is hungry for more, and we will be approaching it as another game we really want to win."
Unlike the previous three finals in which Burke competed in 2012, 2015, and 2017, Galway had the milestone of not having brought the Liam MacCarthy back across the Shannon for 29 years. This year, the Tribesmen are defending champions and Limerick feel the burden of history as the Treaty county have failed to win hurling's holy grail for 45 years. For Burke, having to deal with the hope of 2017 was worse than facing the expectation of 2018.
"The worse thing was dealing with people you would meet. Talking to them at work, to your own family. The expectation, and everyone being so excited and hoping it would be done. You had to just deal with it in a certain way and just focus on the game at hand. I know it is a cliche but that is the only way around it. The rest is a sideshow. Afterwards you can enjoy it with everyone, but beforehand you have to have the one mind with the rest of the team, this is my job and I have to go out and execute it and get it done."
The more hurling the better
One aspect of the campaign which certainly has been different from the 2017 run has been the format of the Championship and the amount of game Galway have had to play. Last year saw Galway play five games to be crowned All-Ireland champions whereas the decider will be Burke and co's ninth, albeit with two replays against Kilkenny and Clare thrown in for good measure. Despite the extra minutes out on the field and less time for recovery, Burke believes the more hurling the better.
"From the outset, the GPA was looking to get more games and the players advice was that we wanted more games. You felt you were training far too much and that there were big gaps between games and the ratio of games to training was pointless. I think it was a move in the right direction albeit, it was tough going and it probably needs to be tweaked again, but it is obviously great for any hurling fan. It has probably been the best hurling championship ever.
"It was great going down to Wexford and getting Kilkenny at home, there was a great buzz around the place. [The more games] was seen as a good thing and not to be getting bogged down by it. Obviously, when you are winning and getting the momentum, you are enjoying it and you are enjoying training as well. I have not seen the new structure as a hindrance.
"It was the same for everyone but it was new for everyone, for the players and management so it was impossible to prepare what was the best thing to do after a game recovery wise. You could only focus on the next team. It might have been a blessing in disguise. For two or three weeks preparation you could look into another team too much, whereas we had Kilkenny and Wexford the week after so we only had three days to look into them and then get going at it, and sometimes this is better than not thinking too much.
"[But] It has put pressure on the body and mind. After the Kilkenny and Clare games, we only had a week to prepare for another match and mentally you have to come down. You have to get the body and the recovery right and I think we have done that very well for the two games and it probably showed in the replays. Bottom line it was about getting over the replay and getting on to the next stage. Obviously it puts massive stress on the panel and we have probably been lucky all year that we did not pick any injuries."
Having played eight games in this Championship to date, there is plenty of match footage to trawl over, and one of the key features of Galway's outings this campaign has been their explosive starts followed by a worrying dip in intensity which has let the opposition back into the game. It is something which has not gone unnoticed by the Galway setup and Burke says the players know that they must manage the period after the purple patch a lot better than they have if they are to take home a second All-Ireland title in as many seasons.
"Every team has their purple patch. We know when we are on top we are good but you cannot keep that pace going for the whole 70 minutes. I think it is about managing the other team's purple patch as well and limiting their scores. I thought we did that well the last day compared to other days, just before halftime where we did not get a score and Clare only got three points. We were very happy with that because that was something we went away from the week before where they tacked on a lot of scores, especially points and that was something we wanted to work on. It is just managing when you are not on top and limiting the amount of scores. It is not an easy thing to do but it is just about managing that in the game.
"We are working on that and keep on scoring [when the purple patch ends]. Even in the last day, we were saying if we could get a score in that time frame, I think we had one chance and Donal Tuohy took it down under the bar, and I think if we got that point we would have broken their rhythm for a while, so something like that in games where we are going well in a game and then we might dip a bit, that we just can get a score to keep it ticking over and that is something on which we will be focusing and trying to improve.
"Maybe last year with the less amount of games, there was more preparation and maybe more rest coming into games, so we may have been more consistent in games so maybe the dips are down to the new format as well. Definitely the last day, I found it tiring after the first 20 minutes, that might have been down to the week before."
'They are great stickmen and very skilful'
Looking ahead to the final and the opposition, Burke says he is a great admirer of Limerick's style of play and has highlighted the influence of Cian Lynch and the midfield where Limerick can cause Galway serious problems.
"We have watched all the games in Munster and played them earlier on in the year. They are very good team, very good panel, very good squad, and play a lovely brand of hurling. They are very hard working team and they play for each other. You can see there is a real team ethic in their play. Every lad chips in and does his bit. They will be a formidable outfit to play against but it is the next challenge for us and hopefully we can get the job done.
"They have big hurlers but they are very good hurlers as well. They are great stickmen and very skilful. I think that was big thing to beat Cork. They had the belief and the big men, and they were able to score, and they brought guys off the bench to finish the job and that gave them massive confidence, and any team like that with confidence will be hard to beat.
"Cian Lynch is a big playmaker for them. Anything [Darragh O'Donovan and Lynch] have done well he has been at the centre of it. They have been playing pretty well and a lot of their comeback [against Cork] was down to them winning a lot of dirty ball towards the end. They are good hurlers and the way they are playing with a deep forward line and deep half back line, it is suiting the two lads they have there [in the middle] and Cian Lynch can attack from deep positions.
"In any game if we win midfield we have a great chance of winning the game, and if you win a lot of ball in there then you are setting up a lot of attacks as opposed to them, so I think it is simple when you look at it like that."