Galway captain David Collins isn’t afraid to say it — his team have suffered a collective mental hang-up in recent years.
Consider their last two championships for the most part comprise a game they stumbled to win (Laois, 2013), two in which they were outclassed (Clare 2013, Kilkenny 2014) and another brace when they lost significant leads (Kilkenny, Tipperary 2014) and they are perilously close to being recognised as flaky.
Don’t expect Collins to use that adjective but his assessment of Galway’s litany of disappointments points to a major shortcoming. “I think it is a mental thing. You can train as hard as you want and we are all fit and our first touch is excellent or whatever it is but it’s that aggression level. When you are on the field and you play the game as you see it. When you bring in too many tactics and trying to stop the other team playing, then I suppose you lose your own fluidity.
“I don’t think it is a fitness issue, it’s not a game-plan issue, it’s more mentally how we are prepared for this. To finish out games, Galway have been ahead in many games, one or two points in it with 10 minutes to go and we’ve lost by six. Those last 10 minutes are key and I think we’ve been working on that well and personally I think we are in a great shape for Sunday and for the rest of the year.”
Ahead of facing Dublin on Sunday, the mood isn’t so buoyant in Galway outside the camp but that can be expected going by a middling league campaign following Leinster and All-Ireland exits in the space of a week last year. Collins know they have underachieved.
Is it an extended hangover from that hugely impressive 2012 season when they took Kilkenny to an All-Ireland replay having beaten them to a Leinster title? “I think going into 2013 we beat Kilkenny in the first league game and we thought we were going to be okay and keep this going,” he recalled. “But we seemed to tire then, there seemed to be a stage where it just dropped. It was unacceptable, really.
“We were shocking against Tipperary in the championship last year (he later says Galway made “a balls of it”). But to use that as an excuse is not good enough because Kilkenny are there year-in, year-out winning All-Irelands and going back the next year. It’s key to keep that freshness and players need to be able to do that.”
At 31, Collins is now 13 years at it with Galway. The fun factor has altered since he came on the scene. “The pressure added now has a lot to do with players’ mental health because you are in the spotlight the whole time in Croke Park in front of 40,000 people. You make one mistake and people are drilling it down your neck.”
Meanwhile Cork selector Johnny Crowley has welcomed the return to the county senior panel of Brian Murphy.
However, defender Crowley admits it is too early to know if the two-time All-Ireland medallist will be in contention to start against Waterford in Sunday week’s Munster SHC semi-final.
The return of 32-year-old Murphy was confirmed last night and the Bride Rovers clubman took a full part in training as manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy sought to ease a shortfall in defensive numbers. Murphy retired from inter-county action after the 2013 All-Ireland final replay defeat to Clare, but has continued to star for Bride. Murphy is the only member of the panel to have won an All-Ireland on the field of play, having starred in the wins of 2004 and ’05.
“Jimmy asked him if he’d come back and he went away and thought about it, but he was very willing. He wanted to help out any way he could and we’ll see how it goes.”
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