Getting the message

Brendan Lynskey looks back on it now and chuckles.

Getting the message

Just 15 months ago, it was no laughing matter. The newspaper piece he, along with Conor Hayes and Noel Lane, contributed to was the most cutting appraisal of a Galway team. Published on the morning of their Leinster semi-final against Dublin, it was an article that had the county talking.

Each multiple All-Ireland winner laid more than a blow against John McIntyre’s side.

Lynskey: “We’re making superstars out of middling hurlers in Galway, blowing up bad hurlers as good.”

Hayes: “Some of these lads’ biggest worry with 10 minutes to go seemed to be whose jersey they’d bring home.”

Lane: “You have to ask do they not have the mental toughness or physical ruthlessness, that savage will to win.”

With such acerbic comments, there was bound to be a fallout.

“There were a few threatening text messages,” recalls Lynskey. “We didn’t want to be proven right. That wasn’t the whole goal of the thing. But I’d got fed up of hearing how we were lovely hurlers and we’ll win if let hurl.

“I’d go down to Kilkenny or Cork and hear people talk about our dainty hurlers, our grand little hurlers. I was sick of listening to that. We needed aggression.

“To me, Tommy Walsh sums up what winning is all about. He plays to the edge but he tows the line when he has to.”

Lynskey remembers the reception he got walking into O’Connor Park that afternoon being a lot different to the one he received leaving Tullamore after Galway’s defeat.

“On the way into the match they were shouting at me and on the way out they were praising me.”

Hayes believes their words created a much-needed debate in Galway about what was wrong with the team.

“It was down to the frustration all three of us felt. It got people talking. The situation in Galway was that ‘yeah, they’re a quarter-final team and if they get further then great’.

“People were missing the point. There was an opportunity being missed. I know Kilkenny were strong last year and so were Tipp but there was still a great chance to win an All-Ireland and yet Galway were being spoken of as the fifth, sixth or seventh best.

“I felt Galway were slipping and we were worrying about playing teams like Dublin. With no disrespect to Dublin, Galway shouldn’t be doing that, but we were starting to look like a Division 2 team and during the league we went close enough to it.”

If Hayes’ issue was that players were playing to their full potential, Lynskey’s problem was the lack of brawn in their game — something their old team-mate Anthony Cunningham has instilled in them this year.

“There was an amount of boxes that had to be ticked and weren’t being ticked. How many boxes have been ticked now 15 months on? To me, all of them.

“My concern back then was aerial ball and why we weren’t winning any. We haven’t got that problem now because Cunningham has changed our style of play. He’s brought in a short game and is attacking from behind. He has the vision to see what has to be done.”

Hayes was bamboozled by what Galway were trying to do in the league — “back in March, I didn’t think they had a chance” — but saw green shoots in the early Leinster games against Westmeath and Wexford.

“They conceded a lot before playing Kilkenny in Leinster but I wasn’t worried about it. They were starting to show signs of cohesion and there was confidence growing in them.

“They weren’t going out and waiting for the other team to do something and react. They’re getting stuck in, they’re getting the dividends and they haven’t been beaten.”

He looks on tomorrow’s game with some optimism.

“At times in the past, you’d be asking what Galway team will turn up but now it’s a case of what Kilkenny team turns up.

“Kilkenny will be a different team from the Leinster final but they’re not as good as they were.

“They do have incredible hunger but I give Galway a real chance. Losing this final won’t be a killer to them. They’re maybe a year ahead of time and they have Joe Canning. A lot will depend on how he plays but he’s been doing well and the other forwards are helping him more than ever.”

Lynskey feels Kilkenny will “move mountains” to ensure Shefflin collects his ninth medal but still insists his county have a chance even if people in Galway have got “carried away”.

“There’s a hunger there, a drive, a passion. A lot of these guys have won at minor and U21 level. Some of the guys on Sunday have won two All-Ireland medals and some of them have won three.

“They’re not concerned about reputations now or how big Kilkenny’s reputations have become. The lads in management have instilled this belief into them.

“There’s an All-Ireland in this team under Cunningham. Maybe the U21s’ defeat by Kilkenny last Saturday week was the reality check that some of the players needed. They might have been thinking they were walking on water.

“There is no better team to beat than Kilkenny if you’re going to win an All-Ireland and I expect Galway to put in a good performance.”

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