Talking to Galway’s hurling manager John McIntyre during the week about this Sunday’s national hurling league final against Cork was a breath of fresh air. No clichés. No boring “we’ll do our best”. Or the other classic: “It’s only the league, and if we win, we win. And if we don’t, it’s the championship that counts.”
We live in an era of many inter-county managers trotting out bland statements and dumbed down clichés. McIntyre, however, calls it as he sees it, avoiding hackneyed, trite clichés.
“We want to win. And if we don’t, we won’t be making any excuses. We want to put our best foot forward and keep our momentum going for the championship. We have established a winning mentality and that is something we want to continue with.
“We will be picking our strongest available team and we won’t be hedging our bets. There will be no holding back this Sunday and we see it as ideal preparation for the championship. Otherwise we'd be going around scrambling for a challenge game against somebody somewhere. This is a huge game in its own right and I see no good reason for Galway to lose this game on Sunday,” he says.
Despite winning six out of the seven league games, he readily acknowledges there are still elements of inconsistency in his team’s performances. However, like any good manager, he gravitates towards the positives.
“The big turning point came against Kilkenny in Nolan Park. They had the momentum at a vital stage in that game and very few people could see us coming back and winning. But we kept fighting for the cause and we managed to get over the winning line. That win was a big factor in getting us to this final and we will need more of that type of spirit from everyone this Sunday too.”
Galway will select their starting XV after training tonight (Thursday ) and McIntyre says he and his management team face tough calls.
“Thankfully we have a very strong panel and even picking the togging 24 will be extremely difficult, not to mind the starting 15. That is a great problem to have and we are delighted that there is such competition for places.
“Good healthy competition is ideal for any panel going into big games and we will have to mull over a lot of decisions before we announce the starting team.”
Galway have some genuine injury concerns ahead of Sunday, with Niall Healy the biggest. He limped out of Craughwell’s championship game at the weekend and will struggle to be right for Sunday. Turloughmore’s Fergal Moore is also on the doubtful list. He carried an ankle injury into their club game last weekend against St Thomas’ and it flared up again in that defeat.
Despite those injuries McIntyre is rational about players picking up injuries in club games.
“It's a risk you run. You can't wrap up your players in cotton wool and you have to cater for the clubs in Galway as well. A vibrant club scene is very important for any county and the club championship has to go on in tandem with the county team.”
On the plus side Cyril Donnellan will be back and available for selection after his suspension following his red card against Dublin and he may return to his regular centre-forward slot. The Portumna contingent will all have a few weeks of county training under their belts now and that strengthens the management’s hand too.
Cork also have their injury worries with dual star Eoin Cadogan, who had been going very well at full-back, ruled out for the league final. It is expected Brian Murphy will slot into number three in his absence.
Niall McCarthy is also likely to be out with a finger injury and he will be a loss for Denis Walsh if he cannot play any role.
Cork continued their preparations for this weekend’s final by playing a challenge game against Wexford last weekend which the Leesiders won handily by 4-20 to 0-17. Big Michael Cussen and Aisake O hAilpin were the goal scorers in that win.
Galway last won the league title in 2004 and they will be keen to take possession of that trophy again this Sunday. If they play to their capabilities and produce the kind of spirit and fight they showed when their backs were to the wall in Nowlan Park against Kilkenny, there is no reason why they cannot continue their winning ways.
*Throw-in is at 7pm in Semple Stadium. There will be extra-time in the event of a draw and the referee is James Owens. The game is being shown live on TG4 with analysis by Cathal Moore and John Allen.