Whenever a team finally makes it to the top of the pile, the inevitable questions will be asked of players the following season of how much hunger do they have to win a second title? How will their winning experiences stand to them? Have they taken their game to the next level?
This line of questioning rarely seems to be put towards management personnel in spite of their influence over proceedings. However although the questions may not be asked, Noel Larkin believes that if a team are to improve, management and the backroom staff, as well as the players, must up their respective games.
“You are trying to keep things fresh. Obviously Frannie [Francis Forde] will be rolling out different ideas every night and we will be giving a hand. You have to tailor things to the different scenarios. You might have four or five weeks between a game whereas last week we had one. It is a challenge but one we are relishing.”
And challenging it has been for Galway to date. They have fought their way out of Leinster and overcome a dogged Clare by one point after 160 minutes of epic hurling. If they managed to secure a second All-Ireland title in successive years the Tribesmen will have done so by playing the most Championship matches in one campaign; nine. Larkin admits that it has been tough to get key preparation done as the matches have come thick and fast, but sees the benefits of more action on the field than the training paddock
“It has been full on since March. The lads came back after the Wexford game and played a month at their clubs. Every player would tell you they would sooner play a game than be training full time so I think the games to training ratio has improved. I think the term greatest hurling championship has been bandied about, but where I'm sitting, it has been right up there.
“The biggest thing is the opposition is changing so much [and trying to prepare for them] because there is a big difference between Kilkenny and Clare due to their playing styles. So we basically had two weeks to prepare for Clare. It is challenging from that point of view and hopefully we will get it right against Limerick.”
For some teams, scaling the summit and ending a long drought would result in a loss of motivation, however Larkin says the team’s hunger for success remains unabated, with some looking to emulate their fathers’ achievements in the eighties.
“They have a taste for it now so they want more. Certainly everyone involved in the backroom, they want more. It is like a drug, winning is a habit. The hunger is there. You have seen it. We had our excuses against Clare if we wanted to go out. We had four All Stars sitting on the bench. Our panel came of age that day I think with the contributions by many players. Our squad came of age in the semi-final matches. The hunger is not an issue anyway.
“A few of the players on this team had dads on the 87 and 88 teams and they were heroes to us when we were growing up. To be compared with them would be a massive honour.”