The last Galway man to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup believes the Tribesmen “will never get a better chance” to end an All-Ireland senior hurling famine that stretches back to 1988.
The winning captain from 27 years ago, Conor Hayes, believes Galway have had “a perfect run” to Sunday’s final against Kilkenny. And Hayes insists the Cats are nowhere near the standards they exhibited from 2007-2009.
Hayes said: “I think Galway will never get a better chance and I’m not trying to rub that in, they’ve had the perfect run-in. This is their seventh game of the championship and they couldn’t ask for more.
“If it goes to a replay, Galway might be tired and beginning to burn out and while you might compare it to 2012, it’s a bit similar, in that they’ve had a really good run at it.
“We drew the first game against Dublin, won two games well, beaten by Kilkenny, got an easy draw, as it turned out, against Cork and pushed on against Tipp.
“For a team trying to settle in and get together, you’ll never get a better chance and Kilkenny are not as good as they were. They’re still good but they wouldn’t be as good as 2007, ’08 or ’09.
“They’re still the best team in the country and the team to beat but I’d give Galway a really good chance.
“I’d compare it to myself (in charge) in 2005, and the long sequence to the final, beating Laois and Antrim in earlier rounds, Limerick, Tipp and Kilkenny to get to a final and then losing to a Cork team that had already won an All-Ireland. We were up against a quite experienced team but Kilkenny don’t have those real seasoned players, they could always rely on, the Brian Hogans, JJ Delaneys, Henry Shefflins.
“And if Galway can bottle the last five minutes against Tipp and release that energy and intensity into it again, they’ll push on.”
Hayes admits his standing as Galway’s last All-Ireland senior hurling winning captain is “becoming a bit of a pain in the butt”. He smiled: “It’s beginning to grate, becoming a bit of a pain in the butt.
“It’s like, is that all you can say to me? I just wish there were three or four other captains since then but it hasn’t happened.
“I thought it would. I did say famously at the end of 1988 and into 1989 that it was 22 or 23 years since the Galway footballers had won an All- Ireland and that if you stood up in Tuam in 1966 and said that we wouldn’t win another for 22 years, you’d be run out of the county.
“A lot of people reprimanded me for it but it took Galway footballers 32 years to win another one.
“Complacency can set in, the feeling that just because you win one, you’re set up for a lift.
“That’s not how it is in Kilkenny, who have shown you have to work for it. They’ve proven that over the years, they work hard and make no secret of that, and full credit to them.
“They’re the benchmark from which any hurling team should be basing themselves.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved