There’s a possibility Galway could face Kilkenny as many as four times next year, but that prospect holds no trepidation for Aidan Harte.
Because of the extra championship games in 2018, rivalries will intensify for Liam MacCarthy Cup teams. The league and All-Ireland champions will face the Cats in a Leinster round-robin game in Salthill, but could also face Brian Cody’s side in the league knockout stages, a provincial final and in the All-Ireland series.
There is a similar prospect with Wexford, while Micheál Donoghue’s side could see plenty of Dublin considering both sides are in Division 1B, as well.
Harte, however, is excited about the novelty of what lies ahead, particularly when Kilkenny must travel to Galway for the Leinster round-two clash in May.
“We have Kilkenny at home in the second game, that is our first home game. Can you imagine Salthill on a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon during the summer, going out in front of 30,000 people in Pearse Stadium with Kilkenny coming to town? It will be a great buzz and that is what you want as a player. There will be great days to look back on, and there is a kinda soccer element to it, rolling games week in, week out, in front of your own fans, it will be huge.
“You want to be playing against the best. We have to go to Wexford Park, and people always say about Wexford Park, ‘that is a tough place to go’ and won’t that be a great challenge as well for players. Even now in December, that is something which will get the belly rumbling. You would really look forward to that, going down there and facing that challenge, knowing how much they have improved. It is a great initiative.”
Like Pádraic Maher, Harte accepts hurling will become more of a squad game next year, because of the intense league schedule prior to the extra championship outings.
“We were here [in Croke Park] in a Leinster final and it was five or six weeks to the All-Ireland semi-final. You’re going to have games week-in, week-out now, so your panel is going to be stretched, guys might get suspended, guys might go off form, guys might get injured. You’re really going to need that one-to-34 or 35. It’s going to be great. I’m really looking forward to it.
“When you go back in January you take it game by game. You’re a player, you want to be playing, you want to be out on the pitch. It’s easier to be out playing matches then running around bollards in Claregalway!”
Harte’s season concluded on Sunday when Gort were beaten by Liam Mellows in the county final. The down-time is something he needs more than wants, he says.
“Going into December, I was after doing maybe 13 months of training and you’d miss a ball in training you’d be mentally getting agitated with yourself thinking why don’t I have this perfected now after 13 months. It’s all mental. You could miss a ball in June or July and you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. It bogs you down at times.”
That defeat in Pearse Stadium three days ago will gnaw at him for some time to come. The fact Liam Mellows had no Galway players might have helped them, but he wasn’t using it as an excuse for Gort’s defeat.
“During the summer months, a lot of guys who aren’t in county panels would go away. I suppose you have your set 15 all year round, but I don’t think it’s a big thing. We were long enough together, we went back training the Thursday or the Saturday after the All-Ireland.”
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