Gearóid McInerney: I could win the Lotto and be the same person
Galway centre back bided his time before making the All-Ireland breakthrough
Gearóid McInerney sorted the long-standing and confounding problem for Galway at centre-back last season. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Every player tells a different story about how winning the All-Ireland changes their life. Gearóid McInerney scratches his chin and thinks hard about it, then makes one suggestion more out of politeness than hard reason.
“We have the sports shop in Oranmore, where I’m working, and it’s been busy since winning the All Ireland,” he says. “That would have been a big boost, because it’s a very GAA orientated shop.
“It was always kept going, even when hurling or football wasn’t as high, but it’s kind of bonus now because we are doing well, in bonus territory with the amount of jerseys being sold, and the buzz around.
“But I’d be fairly easy going. I could win the Lotto and still be much the same person. I just go with the flow, so in terms of changing things, no, not much.”
What is certain is that Galway wouldn’t have won this year’s All-Ireland hurling title without him: not only did McInerney sort the long-standing and confounding problem for Galway at centre-back, he dominated the position – the standout display in the semi-final win over Tipperary, before ensuring Austin Gleeson played no part in the final for Waterford.
The All Star position always going to be his alone.
Such good grounding is explained by the fact his father Gerry was a two-time All-Ireland winner with Galway, in 1987-88: that provided one of the many backdrops to September’s showdown with Waterford, one of his many highlights afterwards.
“That’s something you’ll never forget, the time spent with the family, getting to enjoy it, the scenes after the match. I think it was something to do with the wait, I think it’s the relief as well. But all that is wired into your mind, and something you can call on in the future if you’re feeling down or anything, it will bring you straight back up.
There is a backdrop McInerney’s season which may resonate beyond Galway: now 27, he served his time on the fringes of the starting 15, and despite the near constant influx of younger talent, bided his time before making the breakthrough.
“I didn’t put much thought into it . . . just keep working hard, see where that will take you. I thought I should have been out there, playing even. But you need to think that. We have a lot of players in Galway who think they deserve they be out there, which a lot of them do. They’re the lads pushing you on, and I felt if I kept working at it, eventually I’d get my chance, and hopefully be ready, and justify it.
“It’s a bit of everything. Combination of training hard, working on the things that didn’t work out. Being brutally honest with yourself was a big thing as well. What did you need to improve on, what didn’t you do well in that match. Confidence grows with that.
“And not putting too much pressure on yourself was a big thing. Letting it go. What will be, will be . . . you can’t over-think things. Go with the flow of it.”
After playing in Boston earlier this month at the AIG Fenway Classic, McInerney will spend the New Year on the Galway team holiday, in New York and Cancun. If 2018 did require any teasing the new hurling format, which guarantees Galway two home games in Leinster, is enough. The line in Boston on that trip was that Galway had played more hurling matches in Fenway Park than Pearse Stadium.
“It’s nice to have change, adapt your game around change. It’s a bit of a curveball, really, to see how teams are going to cope with it.
“It is something different. It’s going to be very hard to go unbeaten for a year with this new format, because you’re going to be playing teams in their back garden. But there will be great hype around it, the kids of Galway will get to see Galway play home matches. But everyone is on the same page – we all get two home games.
“You feel that weight with every year. People were getting anxious for Galway to win one: “Will we win it this year? Won’t we?” With this off our back express we can probably ourselves a bit more. Go out and be ourselves. Hopefully, you’ll see a bit more confidence in the team, confidence among supporters, without that ‘oh will it be another year, another Galway story’. That’s gone now.”