Taking slugs from a water bottle, still dripping in sweat from the effort of battle a short time earlier, Joseph Cooney sat patiently alongside manager Mícheál Donoghue under the Hogan Stand on Sunday evening.
The Sarsfields man had just emulated his father Joe in winning an All Ireland senior medal after a tenacious and hard-fought battle against Waterford. While he lived out his childhood dream on the field last Sunday, his praise was directed towards the eight panel members who knew that they were not going to be able to influence things on the field last Sunday.
“I believe numbers 27 to 34 won this All Ireland for us,” said Cooney. “I’d give huge credit to Micheal and the lads. I was delighted before the match started to see all of those lads in the team photo with jerseys on fully togged, that’s a huge mantra for me. I have never experienced that before with previous management teams and that’s what we brought.
“We were in a bubble, 34 of us all going the one direction, and only for that I don’t think we would have got over the line. It was a big massive group effort and just... I don’t know what to say or do.”
So how does it feel to have won a Celtic Cross in the biggest hurling show of the year?
“It’s everything you dream of, it will take a long time to sink in. The joy the group of lads who put everything on the line, and to see each other on the final whistle and just embrace each other, it’s a feeling you’ll never forget. It’s just overiding joy, it’s hard to describe.”
That unity of belief in the entire panel got Galway over the line on Sunday, with subs Niall Burke and Jason Flynn making massive impacts as the game entered the championship minutes in the second half.
“It took everything,” said Cooney. “You saw how Waterford came at us. We probably played all the hurling in the first half. We managed to get a point up or whatever going in, but after doing all the hurling and going in only a point up, you’d be saying jeez. When they got on top in the second half, it took Niall and Jason coming in. They brought in that extra bite and they won a few balls, not necessarily scores, but Niall caught a few super balls for frees and things like that.”
Giving players ownership has been key, he says. “They have put their trust in us, we’re calling the shots since the league. They gave huge ownership to the players on the field, and we just took that on board and said we’re going to have to drive this. We’ve been in every training session, everyone is pushing the one direction, never drop your heads, keep going, keep listening to what the boys are telling us. They had four or five core messages and just stuck to that - going with full belief in one another and trust in ourselves, just keep going, grind it out.”