Tierney plans to crack Cork code

ON SUNDAY, David Tierney will be looking for daylight in the middle of Croke Park.

The space between the 65-metre lines can get congested, but the Galway centre-fielder is looking forward to the challenge, when he and Fergal Healy take on the running men, Tom Kenny and Jerry O’Connor of Cork.

Another player might be intimidated, or worried about the prospect of containing the effervescent Cork duo. Not Tierney. After a couple of seasons on the flank of the attack, he’s looking forward to it.

“I prefer to be out midfield,” says Tierney, “You’re more involved and you’re into the game from the throw-in, you don’t have to be waiting and waiting and time your runs.”

Galway have timed their own run pretty well, and while the Kilnadeema-Leitrim club man acknowledges the rub of the green, he also points to a general improvement on the part of the players.

“We’ve had the bit of luck, but as a selection we seem to be tuned in, the players have taken on the extra responsibility in the sense of getting themselves right. I suppose experience counts as well, a lot of us are five or six years on the road, but you have to be tuned in to do well.

“Last year was another driving factor, we took a lot of stick after that big defeat by Kilkenny and we weren’t going to just take that and go away and hide.”

Now it’s different. The focus on the team last year was tinged with sympathy after they flew into the propellers of a Kilkenny backlash. This time round the attention of the Galway public, not to mention local and national media, is a good deal more positive.

“There’s a nice bit of hype around, it’s good to see all the kids in the Supermacs jerseys, but that won’t count for much if we lose on Sunday.

“It helps that there are eight or nine lads still involved from four years ago as well. It’d be easy to get caught up in the hype but we had a good win in 2001 over Kilkenny in the semi but we lost to Tipperary then in the final. I’m a bit away from the hype. If you were down home people would be talking hurling to you all the time, but working in town - teaching in St Enda’s - is different.”

Like one of his likely opponents, Tom Kenny of Cork, Tierney flirted with the big ball for a while, but now it’s just the hurley he packs for training: “I haven’t played football in a couple of years, the way the commitment has gone I haven’t had time.”

The maroon and white hurlers needed his undivided application after some gut-wrenching defeats in recent years.

“We’d had some crushing defeats in previous years, to Clare by a point and to Tipp by a point - if that doesn’t build character I don’t know what does. This season the Laois and Antrim games helped us to find our feet but the Limerick game was one we singled out, and it helped us gain championship experience. Cork is another big one, the other days have come and gone.

“The Tipp one was a turning point, even if we’d lost to Limerick we’d have had another chance, but we hadn’t beaten Tipp in a couple of years. Then you had the Kilkenny match”

And now the final hurdle. The third of the Big Three lie in wait for Galway, and Tierney nods when Cork’s experience of the big day out in Croker is mentioned.

“Three years in a row in the final shows great consistency. Cork are experienced, they have a system and they play to it and stick to it no matter what. It came through for them against Clare and it showed great character and hunger to come back from six points down. They have great speed and they’re very possession-oriented. Still, we’re looking forward to the game.”

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