One of the leaders of the Galway hurlers’ revolt against last year’s management has accepted the action has intensified pressure on the team in this year’s championship.
David Collins, a former Young Hurler of the Year but now in his 13th season with the county seniors, also says winning the All-Ireland is "the only thing that's going to be acceptable to both players and supporters".
In the aftermath of last September's All-Ireland final defeat by Kilkenny, the Galway players made it clear they did not wish Anthony Cunningham to continue as manager. The ensuing stand-off proved contentious until Cunningham, a former All-Ireland winner who had guided the county to two finals last year and in 2012, resigned in November.
“Ah yeah, it does add pressure,”says Collins when asked if last autumn’s controversy intensified the spotlight on the team. “What happened, happened but it’s gone and the players aren’t dwelling on it.
“We’re in there training like we were last year and we’re under a new structure and enjoying it, but there is pressure of course.”
He says he is aware of the disquiet caused in Galway.
“That’s why I say that anything other than an All-Ireland final is not going to be good enough. That’s what the pressure is and if you shy away from that, where are you going to go?” Collins says.
“We wanted change and we got change. Now we have to fulfil our side and do it. Players understand it and players are aware of it. I’m personally aware of it and I know what goes on but it’s really down now to the championship and focus on Westmeath in two weeks’ time.”
Views within the county were divided on the controversy. After it, Micheál Donoghue was appointed the new Galway manager and in the league just concluded, the county were relegated after a play-off defeat by Cork, raising the stakes even further for this year’s championship.
Clare, winners of this year’s league, provide, like Waterford 12 months ago, a template for Galway: win promotion straight back to the top flight and win the title from Division One B. Collins also recognises the challenge in the style of play Clare have perfected.
“You look at the intensity Clare brought to the league final; it was fantastic – the work rate, the blocking, the hooks,” Collins says.
“Now the whole game plan and system they use with the extra-man defender is something we’re going to have to learn to deal with because if you look at the All-Ireland final, in the second half Kilkenny dropped back two men and we weren’t able to counteract it and we were putting in ball and it was coming straight back out with interest.”
While acknowledging that it’s up to teams to find their own optimum route to success he says he doesn’t like the sweeper system because it negatively affected contests.
“It’s not a professional game and I think that it should be more open and we should have a real shot at goal,” he says.
Collins is now more accustomed to the view from the dugout but said he had no issues with that. “I was a substitute last year as well and I have absolutely no problem being a sub, because I think a substitute brings as much to the table as a starter.”
The weekend brought news of the passing after a short illness of former GAA president Joe McDonagh, who was one of the generation that brought Galway hurling back to the top table in the 1970s.
Collins is too young to have experienced the years culminating in the famous 1980 All-Ireland triumph but he is fully aware of the era’s significance.
"All the stories go back to the Joe Connolly days and the Joe McDonagh days. It was really sad and what I'd have to go back to is I was watching the Connacht game the last day and John Muldoon brought it up that he had just died . . . and it was a really powerful thing that it brought; that remembrance of him, that drive and commitment that he had," Collins says.
“He did everything for Galway hurling at the same time and I think this has to spur on a Galway revival. He would love it; everyone would love it. The strength is there and he was massive for Galway. He was an absolute character. His son is actually only a few years older than me. Joe was a real passionate guy, a real hurler and a real gentleman but a massive loss. And my condolences to the family of course.
“But we as Galway hurlers will go out and do him proud hopefully this year and really turn things around. It’s a powerful message you have to drive.”
David Collins was in
Dublin City University
to launch the A
“Get Breathless for COPD” charity cycle, a two-day event organised by A Menarini Pharmaceuticals.