When it comes to back-to-back success, Kilkenny, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, are the market leaders. Seven times a Kilkenny team has successfully defended Liam MacCarthy in the 30 years since Galway managed this feat.
Pádraic Mannion was one of three players put forward at Galway’s press morning in the middle of last week and, when the conversation turned to backing up their 2017 success, the Ahascragh/Fohenagh man referenced the stripey men on several occasions.
The 25-year old didn’t feel any sizeable weight lifted off his shoulders when Waterford were overcome last September, and so can’t quite countenance why his, or, indeed, the team’s hunger would be in any way less insatiable this year. It shouldn’t be automatically assumed that players are content with one All-Ireland medal simply because the county doesn’t have much of a winning tradition.
"It doesn’t matter that you won one last year, you still really want to win it again,” Mannion reasons.
Even when Kilkenny were winning everything, winning the previous year didn’t really take away from their want to win it the following year. They’re so hard to come by that while you’re here playing, you just want to win everything you can.
So, basically, Galway are trying to adopt the Brian Cody mentality, clichéd and all as it may sound.
“Yes, you just take it game by game and year by year, and try win as much as you can while you’re there. Obviously, you can take confidence from the success that you had previously, but, ultimately, that doesn’t guarantee you success in the future. As a player, the mindset you need to have is game by game, even training session by training session when you break it down. You just keep going and going and, hopefully, it can be a successful year.
“You just do all you can do and hope that you’ve no regrets at the end of it, none of the ‘I should have trained harder, won more’.”
That attitude didn’t come back into play until after they returned from their team holiday in early January and work began on the 2018 season.
There is no point taking ownership of Liam MacCarthy if you’re not going to embrace the madness that follows.
“It’s an amateur sport. People are putting their lives on hold for it. When Galway was so long waiting, as well, it was only right to enjoy it. I know other teams before were straight away thinking, ‘we have to win it again next year’.
“But we were conscious that we wanted to enjoy everything that was going on. Once January came, then, it was automatic, it wasn’t a conscious decision that you have to forget everything.”
Bar the handful of injury-time minutes at the end of their 1-22 to 2-11 round-robin victory over Kilkenny, the older of the Mannion brothers has been ever-present on the Galway team this summer. One member of the Mannion clan who won’t be at Croke Park tomorrow is the eldest of the siblings, Ciarán, who was the first from the house to pull on a maroon shirt.
“Ciarán is teaching PE in Shanghai and is actually flying out of Ireland to China the day before the final. He has to be back out there for school on Monday. He was actually on the minor panel the year Galway lost the final to Tipperary in 2006. That was Joe Canning’s final year minor. He hurt his knee before the championship started so he didn’t get to play. He’s done his cruciate three times. He’s had a bad old run of it. He definitely would have made the Galway senior set-up, but for the injuries. He’d be better than me, anyway!”
Ciarán did attend the semi-final replay against Clare, a game Pádraic knows could so easily have gone against them.
“When you’re in the game, you’re kind of forgetting about the result. You’re just thinking, ‘keep going, keep going, keep going’. You hope when the whistle goes that you’re on the right side of the result. Going into the final, there’s an expectation on us, but there’s expectation on Limerick as well. Obviously, we have to build from the experience [of last year] and how we came through that game and all the games so far this year.”