AT one point yesterday, Damien Hayes rolled up the legs of his jeans to show the swelling in his injured left knee but it is damage of a mental rather than a physical nature which is dominating his thoughts this week.
Last Sunday’s meeting between Kilkenny and Galway was supposed to be the Leinster final from heaven after over a decade of hellish hammerings handed out by the Cats to the likes of Wexford and Offaly. The reality was very different.
On the face of it, a seven-point defeat was not the worst beating in the world, but Hayes takes no solace in a scoreline that cannot hide the fact that Galway failed to bring their A-game to the table.
“We were very disappointed,” he said. “There’s no point in saying otherwise. Kilkenny beat us fair and square. They were well on top and they are an unbelievable team. ”
There were no excuses. No pointing to the fact that John McIntyre’s side were playing their third game in three weekends while Kilkenny got to cram for the decider in the comfort of their familiar Nowlan Park surroundings.
“Oh, no. We can make lots of excuses, but we didn’t play to our potential. Having said that, maybe we weren’t let to play for our potential because they hurled very, very well and Kilkenny were only in third gear.”
The manner of the loss wasn’t long in breeding criticisms.
One was the decision to start Hayes at full-forward and Joe Canning behind him. Hayes even migrated out to midfield later on but the question has been asked as to why the pair are not being used closer to goal.
After all, Portumna have benefited from that.
“Well you can’t compare club with county. You can go back to that system if you want but you’re talking about trying to break Kilkenny’s half-back line and then what do you do? Do you leave the two of us then inside?
“It’s easy to talk about it but you have to win your individual battles all over the park. If John wants us to go back that way we will but it’s hard to know, he’ll be doing awful thinking about it for the next couple of days. Maybe he’ll be looking at lads in different positions and re-align the team.”
Talked up as one of the most likely counties to usurp Kilkenny at the start of the summer, the vagaries of the qualifier draw could well leave them facing Liam Sheedy’s Tipperary side in the quarter-final. Lose that and they will have stalled at the very same juncture as in 2009. .
“It would be a huge setback,” Hayes admitted. “We have made progress this year. We’ve won the Walsh Cup and we’ve won the National League and we got to a Leinster final. We have four championship matches played this year and we’re in a quarter-final which would be five matches. We would be hugely disappointed, to be straight with you, if we lose the next game.”
What to do?
Draw a line under everything and start again.
“It’s like a new championship now. John McIntyre said it. Lads need to regroup. We’re back with our clubs this weekend. We’re back training next Tuesday night. Positions are up for grabs. No one that has been playing for the last couple of games is certain of his places, he said.
“We need to improve big time, he says, and we’re going to be looking at different players. Maybe if we could get ourselves together for the next game and win it and go on to another game. The more games we play, hopefully it will stand to us and build confidence.”
Hayes talked about the need for players to put their bodies on the line and he has already done that thanks to the problem with his knee joint which has sent him wading in Salthill’s Atlantic surf in recent weeks.
An MRI scan has shown that the kneecap is out of place. So far, sea water has succeeded where ice and cryotherapy have failed and he intends to press on as best he can while Galway’s ambitions are still afloat.
The long-term remedy is rest and lots of it.
Hayes will hope to put that off for a while yet.
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