Rejuvenated Galway goalkeeper James Skehill has admitted he looks on with “viciousness” and “anger” at Kilkenny and Cork’s All-Ireland haul.
The former All-Star nominee is back in the Galway panel and excited about hurling again after departing the set-up in disillusion last year.
The 2012 All-Ireland final keeper shocked Galway by quitting during the Allianz League before heading to the US.
Cappataggle man Skehill said he lost his “bite” for the game for various reasons but a spell away piqued his hurling senses again.
He’ll captain the Galway intermediates in next month’s All-Ireland final with Cork and will also be sub keeper for Sunday’s MacCarthy Cup quarter-final against the same opposition.
The 27-year old’s raw ambition is clear and he spoke passionately about helping Galway return to the very top of the game again.
“We’re long enough looking down at our boots in Galway waiting for something to happen,” said Skehill. “It’s a big thing in Galway that the hurlers don’t get past Race Week.
“I’ll do my bit and take care of my bit and try to bring lads along with me but I don’t want to be stuck at home in the months of August and September looking at teams like Kilkenny and Tipperary when I believe that we’re just as good as them. There’s small things that we need to fix in our game and if we fix those we can mix it with the best of them.
“But we just need to have a positive mental attitude and a serious fire in the belly to go and knock these teams off their perches.
“I get an element of viciousness or anger when I look at Kilkenny and Cork with their 30-odd All-Irelands and I see Galway with four.
“It brings a bit of spite to it and it’s kind of what drives me on, big time. I’m ambitious and I’m driven, the same as the rest of the guys in the panel and that’s what we have to keep going forward.”
Skehill hit the headlines in 2012 when he injured his shoulder in training 48 hours before Galway’s All-Ireland final replay with Kilkenny.
He started the rematch but was taken off and later admitted each puck-out felt like being ‘stabbed’ in the shoulder.
“Dark days, dark days,” he recalled. “Look, that’s firmly in the past in my head. I’ve had all sorts of surgeries to get it over and done with, I’m feeling strong, feeling fit.
“I suppose with the break I took last year, the bit of a sabbatical, I’m reenergised, revitalised again.”
Skehill, currently battling Colm Callanan for the senior goalkeeper’s jersey, admitted that intense criticism of the Galway hurlers was partly behind last year’s decision to walk away.
“I went to Boston, I played for Galway in Boston. In hindsight, it was the best thing for me to do at that time, there were a lot of things going on personally, it was good just to get a break, get away from the country, get away from different pressures, of farming, of work, of hurling. It was a chance to really enjoy hurling out there without having any real pressure or having any criticism coming at you, not that it’s a bad thing, criticism, but just that it was more about the leisure of the game than the seriousness.”
Few top hurling counties receive as much criticism as Galway, and Skehill urged commentators and pundits to consider the weight of their words.
“If you’re a young player coming into the team, if you’re 18, 19... like, it’s different for the likes of myself, Joe Canning, Iarla Tannian, who are 27, 28, 29, we have token answers for those people when they come criticising us, we’re well used to it.
“But if you’re a young guy coming out of minor who has had a bit of success and doesn’t know how to deal with criticism, that can be difficult.
“With the way things are nowadays in society, it’s important to mind our young people and not to be harping on about a game because at the end of the day, it’s great to win but it’s a game.”
Skehill finds himself in a unique position heading into Sunday’s Thurles clash with Cork. If he plays or even appears for a matter of seconds as a blood substitute, he will be immediately ineligible to play in the All-Ireland intermediate decider.
“I’d be gone, yeah, and we’re one game away from an All-Ireland,” said Skehill. “It’s an interesting one and I thought about it alright before the semi-final, that if we were lucky enough to win and then anything happened to Colm with the seniors, like, even if I come on for a minute in Thurles I’m gone as an intermediate.
“It’s a technicality and it would be a bit of a shame to happen but when you’re part of a panel, you’re there to represent and if Colm unfortunately goes down, and I hope he doesn’t, I’ll step in no bother.”
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