It was Johnny Glynn’s dispossession of Pádraic Maher two minutes from the end of normal time that told David Collins he’d see Croke Park in September.
Glynn hooked the attempted clearance of Maher, Cathal Mannion snapping the breaking ball between the posts. Stalemate at GAA headquarters.
On the field but three-minutes, Collins hadn’t witnessed such a collective work-rate since 2012. Galway were “on”.
In previous summers when the westerners came out on the wrong side of such titanic battles, the first head on the block was the manager. No more. The Galway hurlers have fronted up in 2015, according to Collins, have taken responsibility away from the sideline.
“When I saw Johnny Glynn hooking Maher and then Mannion picking the ball up and putting it over the bar, I said ‘right, this is it, this is our game.’ We’re on that curve’.
“Why I say this is because the work-rate, the intensity the boys kept bringing to it. Three points down, four points down, they kept coming back with scores. That attitude, it is fantastic,” says the 31-year old.
In their quarter-final win over Cork, Glynn won a phenomenal nine puck-outs, successful in the tackle on 11 occasions. In the semi-final win over Tipperary, Glynn again dominated the skies, second only in the tackle count to Padraig Mannion.
It is the squad’s younger and more inexperienced members who are the setting the pace. You do not want to be left behind, Collins remarks.
“We broke it down, stats-wise, in terms of what tackles are being made, who’s making them and who is making the biggest impact tackles. If you’re not making the targets then you are pulled out. In training, that’s been done, you are told you are not getting in the tackles, you are not getting in the hits.
“It’s the players that are driving it, its players that are pulling other players aside and asking ‘where is this going’, ‘why aren’t you doing this’. It’s not coming from management, which is great. It’s a real team bond, there’s a unity there. Lads know what they need to do. Once it’s player-led, player-driven, great, that’s what we need.
“Many a time in Galway it’s been blamed on management, ‘the manager is this, the manager is that’. Take out the common denominator of manager and we haven’t won anything anyway. The players have to drive it on. I believe in the Galway team. I have for the last 15, 20 years and it’s really that drive that I’m still here because I want that medal.”
A hamstring injury sidelined the experienced defender for the Leinster final against Kilkenny and while not fully fit when introduced late on against Cork, Collins failed to dislodge Aidan Harte for last month’s semi-final.
The sole surviving member from the 2005 All-Ireland final team, he’s exhausting every avenue of energy and effort in training to get himself behind the Artane Boys Band on Sunday.
“Personally, it’s disappointing you wouldn’t be starting, but I’m going to give myself every chance.
“It’s refreshing to know management have confidence in the lads that can come in, that depth is there. It’s reassuring, but I wouldn’t say I’m delighted about it, but it’s great for the team. It’s dog eat dog in training. It’s hot and heavy. There’s aggression in the tackles, there’s no one holding back. There is no one thinking you have to mind the man beside you. I want that jersey back.
“I’m going to hold on to that belief that there are positions open. Cunningham has shown he hasn’t got any hesitation in holding me off the team long enough and if Canning is not up to it, then he won’t get on it. That’s the way it should be. It’s the first time I’ve ever been on a panel that’s like that. In 2009 I came back from injury and got straight back into the team, and I was two years out.”
Benefiting most from the changed set-up are the younger players – Jason Flynn, the Mannion brothers, John Hanbury, Daithí Burke and Johnny Glynn.
“They are not coming in there and given the jersey and guaranteed the jersey. Because years ago you were guaranteed a jersey. More is expected of you now. We have seven or eight forwards that can go in and perform.
“As older players, myself and Andy Smith are actually demanding we get more off these players and that’s what we needed. That wasn’t there years ago.”
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