Putting an end to the yawning 29-year wait for an All-Ireland title has lifted a weight of anxiety off Galway, believes All-Star centre-back Gearóid McInerney, who hopes the county will now hurl with greater freedom and confidence.
“It should. You feel that weight with every year. People were getting anxious for Galway to win one. Will we win it this year? Won’t we?
“With this off our back, we can probably express ourselves a bit more, go out and be ourselves. Hopefully, you’ll see a bit more confidence in the team, confidence among supporters, without that ‘oh will it be another year, another Galway story’. “That should be gone now. There’s no reason at all why we can’t start producing top quality teams. There are no guarantees of winning it but it would be great to be competitive at the business side of things, really give ourselves a chance.”
As McInerney puts it, Micheál Donoghue’s side “rode that roller-coaster” in 2017, sweeping up league, Leinster, and All-Ireland titles. However, they now face an unprecedented challenge when attempting to retain their crowns; a round-robin provincial series. For one thing, McInerney believes we may have seen the last of unbeaten All-Ireland champions.
“It’s a bit of a curveball, really. It’s going to be very hard to go unbeaten for a year with this new format. Because you’re going to be playing teams in their back garden. That will be interesting. There will be great hype around it.
“I haven’t really planned it out with the training diary. It’s nice to have change, adapt your game around change.
It’s perfect timing for Galway, in many ways, with the two home matches the group format guarantees arriving just as hurling is buzzing in the county.
“The kids of Galway will get to see Galway play home matches,” McInerney says.
“Even talking to a few teachers, the amount of kids bringing in hurls, gathering up an interest around hurling. Having matches in Pearse Stadium in Salthill is going to be great. The numbers are going to come out to that. It’s going to make hurling stronger, I think.
“It is a plus for Galway fans. They only have to go down the road for matches, don’t have to travel far, which is a big bonus for them because they have been loyal enough travelling to the ends of the country to see us play.”
While previous Galway sides have struggled with expectancy, McInerney believes this year’s crop dealt well with the growing sense this was to be their breakthrough year.
“We never really panicked. We just rode that roller-coaster, tried to keep improving, tying to stay humble, trying not to buy into all that favourites’ tag.
“It’s all about progressing, not trying to take a backwards step. We kept getting better and better as we went along. Hopefully we can keep progressing as a team.” Galway’s last All-Ireland-winning team, on which McInerney’s father Gerry player, managed to string two All-Irelands together. Only Cork and Kilkenny have retained the title since and while McInerney is determined Galway won’t rest on their laurels, he knows there are no guarantees.
“We were so long waiting, we got it, and it’s great and we will all enjoy it. But we’ll relax and be calm and go about our business and we won’t get carried away.
“We’ll try do the best we can for the next few years. That’s what retirement is for, when you retire you can think on those things and enjoy them more but for now we’ll keep pushing and try keeping adding to our tallies of honours.”
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