First match for Galway:
A National League game in Ballinasloe, 1983. I deputised for Conor Hayes who was playing for Kiltormer at the time in a county final, and I marked Jimmy Barry Murphy.
Last match for Galway 1994: The All Ireland semi-final against Offaly which we lost.
I probably have two - the first one beating Kilkenny in the All Ireland semi-final 1986. We grew up being hammered by Kikenny and having to pay second best at minor or u-21. Half way through the second half I looked up and saw we were 12 points ahead of this famous Kilkenny team - it was an awesome feeling. The second is 1988, beating Tipperary in the All Ireland final and putting two All Irelands back to back. Beating our nemesis Tipp was even better than anything.
1989 - the whole fiasco with the Tony Keady affair. We were double All Ireland champions, going for three-in-a-row which would immortalise you, but it is just terrible that a team that was so good didn't win more. We lost '85,'86, we should have won '89, and we could have won 90. That team was so good. I didn't mind losing 85 and 86, but in 89 there was a witchhunt for Keady while a player from Tipp had also played in America. They used Keady and the fact that some delegates from Sligo and counties like that voted against us in our own province, it was as if they were compelled to do what Croke Park wanted, and that was, "We are tired of Galway, they are beginning to get too big for their boots, telling us what to do, they think they can break the rules and get away with it, and that is not going to happen". As for the game, let's just say some controversial decisions. I don't think the ref refereed another game after that.
I found it very difficult to mark Martin Storey [Wexford] for the simple reason he was like a modern day hurler. He would be standing beside you one minute, be at corner back the next, and then at corner forward on the far side. We were used to playing orthodox where you would mind your own patch and that's where you operated, but Storey would bring you all over the field. Tony O'Sullivan was a brilliant player. I marked him in 1986, John Leahy and I had some battles down through the years and there was great rivalry between us and Tipp. There was Richie Power (John Power's father ), but I'd give it to Storey.
Player most admired:
Conor Hayes, Joe Cooney, from my own era, Noel Lane, Sylvie Linnane. We were lucky that when we came along, there were players who had won All Irelands, Noel Lane, Peter Molloy, Syvile, all those lads, and they were able to tell us the importance of it and what it means and how it will elevate your game when you win one. The unfortunate thing for the current team is they don't have anyone in that dressing room yet that has an All Ireland - only Anthony Cunningham - and it's important that he does, because he can talk the talk, he's been there and done that on two occasions.
I admired all those lads on our teams. Outside of Galway, Nicky English in our era, Eddie Keher was a fantastic hurler, Jimmy Barry Murphy, Ger Loughnane when I was a , Sean Stack, and the era after I left, I thought Brian Lohan from Clare was one of the most gifted fullbacks I ever saw, and outside him Seanie McMahon. You would have to mention Henry Shefflin of course and Eddie Brennan was a fanastic hurler as well. In the old era, I look up to my own and I still do, Conor Hayes was a fantastic captain.
Differences in the game today:
It is refereed in a different manner now. The refereeing is a lot stricter. The physicality has gone from the game, it moves in a different way. There are more Martin Storeys playing now. In my time it was a battle between two players, if it didn't work for you, you were taken off. Now, if it's not working for a fella at corner forward, he could be brought to wing forward or midfield, or left to play a roaming game. There are not as many head-on battles and it's not as physical.
We were probably allowed get away with 30 per cent more aggression. The game is definitely faster, it's more exciting, more entertaining. When we beat Kilkenny in 1988 I think it was 1-12 to 0-9 points, that was the score - 21 scores in all. Against Tipp this year, Galway scored 26 alone. The game between Tipp and Galway was probably one of the best games I have seen, putting it ahead of the great trilogies between Tipp, ourselves and Kilkenny.
What's different about Galway?
People are saying Joe Canning isn't playing well, but I would say that Canning doesn't have as much to do as he did in the past. If I have two corner forwards who are going to score 10 points between them, I don't really care if Joe doesn't score at all, and Joe doesn't care either. In the past everything had to be filtered through Joe. Now Jason Flynn goes out 100 yards from goal, throws a ball down, takes the free, and taps it over the bar. There is no way he would have had the confidence to do that last season. This team has three new players, young Mannion, young Flynn, and young Whelan, Jonathan Glynn has stepped up to the mark, and the return of Cyril Donnellan is vital.
I have seen a different Anthony [Cunningham] as well. There is a different steel to Anthony. and taken it, and he is more vocal on the sidelines, aggressive - controlled - more passionate, and the last free Seamus Callanan took, Anthony was standing in direct line behind him, he was talking to the linesmen while Callanan was taking the free, but it is typical of what a good manager should do, and if Cody had that opportunity, he would be nearly hitting the ball for him if he could get away with it. When the players look back and see what Anthony is doing, they are looking up at a leader.
Kilkenny v Galway:
The good thing is there are some 39 fewer All Ireland medals in the Kilkenny team this year than last. They go to Croke Park to win All Irelands, and they can win ugly or pretty. However Kilkenny haven’t been tested, they don’t really know how good they are. They have lost a lot of big names, big hitters, and those lads were legends.
This is our sixth game, their fourth. Galway had been pushed against Dublin. In the Leinster final, albeit we didn’t play well, we scored goals at good times to bring it back level, but Kilkenny never seemed to be in the high gears at all. We played Cork, destroyed them, and then the Tipp game - to go a goal and a point down after two minutes, to concede another two, and still win on points, we have showed we are improving. We have continuity, we are battle hardened a little more than Kilkenny, and if Galway bring the same game with the same passion and tidy a little bit in defence, it will take an incredible Kilkenny team to beat them.
Kilkenny: TJ Reid and Richie Hogan. The have incredible work rate, are incredibly skilled players, they can stand in front of you and hit the ball over the bar and you still can’t block them, they are such tidy hurlers. In defence, Paul Murphy is a brilliant corner back, then Finlay at midfield or John Power if he is playing - they can go from the 40 to 40 all day long. If we can stop Reid and Hogan, we will win. Galway: Our goalkeeper was fantastic the last day. I think Collins is a huge part of Galway hurling and he has a role to play and may be the player to solve our fullback problem. Tannion must control the centre of defence, he was exceptional the last day, he showed authority. Johnny Coen at corner back may not have had the best season earlier, but he’s coming back and there’s more in him, and could have a huge part to play. David Buurke had his best game in about three years and he is vital for Galway to contribute on the scoreboard and link defence with attack. Up front you could pick any one of the six forwards. . If Joe has one of his games and the others contribute, we can beat anybody.
There is great support back for Galway and there has been throughout the years, but they deserve to get some reward for 27 years of promises. Pat McDonagh of Supermac’s has been with Galway hurling since 1991 when I was captain. He is one of the longest serving sponsors of hurling and for the amount of effort and dedication put in, if anyone deserves to be up in the stand watching the cup being presented, it is Pat and Una McDonagh.
The 1988 team or the 2015 team: Not being arrogant, but I have to be real, everybody in the 1988 team has an All Ireland medal. I will answer after the All Ireland, when they come home with the cup.
Prediction: Galway to win. We are in a great position to stop a 27 year rot, and after coming from a low base at the beginning of the year, it has grown and grown, and it was absolutely fantastic to see the support, the passion of the play, Anthony’s pride. We have six scoring forwards, we have to tidy our defence, and that will have been solved by Anthony now. I expect we will up it another notch again and, if we come with our A game, give all we have, it will take an incredible Klkenny team to beat us.
Score: A high-scoring game. Galway 2-20 Kilkenny 3-15 -a win by two points.