Talking the talk and walking the walk

When you sit down and talk Galway hurling with David Collins, you can imagine what it is like to be in the dressing room and ready to go to war in maroon and white. If passion alone won a Celtic cross, then Collins would be weighed down with them at this stage of his career. But, alas, the 31-year-old  Liam Mellows' man has just the one from the u-21 championship  in 2005.

Injury this year has seen the team captain fail to regain his place in the first 15, but he is not counting out getting the call from Anthony Cunningham to be marching behind the Artane band on Sunday at 3.20pm.

"I'm going flat out. In fairness, there's a serious squad of players there, and it's about putting the pressure on the lads. Look, I'll do anything I can to get on it," he says.

Advancing to the All Ireland final  took a lot of soul searching for Galway, particularly when things were not going well. Collins can pinpoint the exact moment Galway said "enough is enough. we're doing this".

It was returning from Walsh Park after Waterford had put 20 points on them in the league quarter-final at the tail end of March.

"Coming home on that bus, I never want to do that again. We've had a lot of disapointments coming out of Waterford. I was like Jesus, 'never again will that happen'. We all went back on it, looked at what happened, looked at the issues and what we needed to improve on.

"Game plan was one, attitude was another, and also work rate, and that happened."

The timing was crucial for Galway this year because if it happened any later, there would have been no coming back, he says.

"I think it was the following week, we sat down as players and discussed where it went wrong, what we needed to improve on in terms of management to players' attitudes. That all changed, and it was lucky  it happened at that time. If it had happened in a Leinster quarter-final or semi-final, it would have been too late, so it did happen at the right time of the year so we could assess it and move on from it."

This year Anthony Cunningham has not been afraid to mix things up. Players have been  parachuted in from seemingly nowhere to make a major impact on games and that is something that gave Galway a big kick when needed, says Collins.

"It optimises the attitude of the players. This is the first time I've seen the depth of squad being required and it's there. It's massive on the panel, the pushing to get back in and get a place is massive, and it's great because that's what I think keeps it all fresh. I really do, that's why I think we're going so far."

Stepping up to the mark

The resilience in the Galway squad  was shown clearly  by Shane Maloney and his winning score against Tipperary in the semi-final.

"You look at him and say 'what composure by a young fella", you go 'OK, he took a snap shot with the first one, but then he sat back and thought I've more time on the ball', which is great, and that's coming from training. He's flying in training and it was great to have him to spring from the bench. When I saw him putting it over the bar, I just went 'thank God."

Collins says Galway areplaying without any fear this year based on the work  on the training ground and the confidence they all have in each other.

"You were going 'right that was massive from a young fella'. I thought he might try to lay it off, I thought Canning was going to shoot. He was kinda shooting from all ranges and missed a few that day and for the vision of him to see that ball, it says to me the lads are tuned in. The know the game plan they know what they need to do and they are not just taking chances [with their shots]. It speaks oceans of the preparation they've done."

While Collins is full of praise for everyone in the panel, he is still the competitor who wants to be there on the pitch on the big day.

"It's personally disappointing that you wouldn't be starting, but I'm going to give myself every chance to start. It's just a massive boost to have that panel there to say 'right, if he gets injured, there's someone else to come in'. That's the attitude of the players on the panel at the moment and that's what you need. Yes, it's refreshing that you'll have confidence in the guys that will come in and that depth is there. It's reassuring, I wouldn't say I'm delighted about it, but it's great for a team.

"It's dog-eat-dog in training. It's  hot and heavy. There's agression in the tackles, there's no one holding back, no one thinking there's an All Ireland final in a few weeks' time and mind your man beside you, no way.

"I want that jersey back, everyone wants a jersey, there is no one in the starting 15 who was there the last day, that is guaranteed their place, and that's what Anthony Cunningham has drilled into us and we'll play to that."

No one is sure of his place

Collins said only one player was a certainly, and not who most would suspect.

"I don't think there is, other than Colm Callaghan being a certainty in goal. In the full  back line we have additions, Paul Killeen played with the u-21s and he put in a massive effort there that day, he's available for selection in that position too.  I'm going to hold on to the belief that there are positions open. Cunningham has shown that, he's held me off the team for long enough. Even if Canning [Joe] isn't up to it, he won't be on it, and that's the way it should be."

Pádraig Mannion was given a torrid time by Seamus Callanan in the semi-final with the Tipp man running riot, but the way Mannion battled is what Collins wants to see from Galway players.

He had sympathy for his team-mate, he said.

"Of course I did, but I have the utmost respect for Mannion, because he was catching ball out in front of him, he was breaking ball out in front of him, and you know, he was running on and tackling ball and cleaning up.

"If that was years ago, it would have been, 'all right, I'm getting cleaned here, nearly take me off". But there was no way he was coming off that field and for that, I give him 100 per cent credit. I felt that the ball going in, we didn't work hard enough in the middle third to stop that ball being delivered in. That's not his fault, it's no fault of his. Yes, we should have dropped back deeper to protect him a little more and these are things you learn, but you have to bring that curve into the Kilkenny game."

Doing what needs to be done

Collins is also in no doubt that he would do as John Hanbury did in the semi-final and drag down his man rather than let him in for a goal.

"Give me TJ Reid any day, you'd have to pull him down. He made the decision and it was the right decision at the time and you know what, the wrong decision was in the Tipp hands with Callaghan hitting that free.

"I thought his head went straight into the ground, it was the right thing for us to do to for us to win that match, be it cycnical or whatever for us in the end.  He didn't do it out of hatred, more for the love of Galway hurling, more 'this is my chance and I'm going to take the hit' and fair play to him, and we're in an All Ireland final."

That win at all costs mentality is something that was missing from Galway,  Collins says.  "It was, it was more of a case of do anything to win, Galway hurling hasn't had that for a long, long time, I don't think."

As for has he dared to dream about lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup, with a determined smile and a little laugh "I've dream't about it alright" he says.

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