All Star Galway goalkeeper Colm Callanan has questioned how an apparently gutless team could reach two of the last four All-Ireland hurling finals.
Callanan, speaking just 72 hours out from their make or break All-Ireland quarter-final showdown with Clare, was responding to the withering criticism of the team by pundit Ger Loughnane.
Former Clare and, ironically, Galway manager Loughnane claimed in the wake of Galway’s Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny that the Tribesmen “are made of absolutely nothing. You can forget about this Galway team — they have no guts whatsoever”.
Quite aside from winding up Galway, Loughnane’s comments haven’t done much to help his own county who feel their opponents have been handed motivation to perform in Thurles on Sunday.
So close to that game, Callanan did his best to avoid adding further fuel to the fire though couldn’t help questioning how Loughnane came to his conclusions.
“Sure look, how does a team with no leaders get to All-Ireland finals and semi-finals and big games like Clare on Sunday?” asked Callanan. “That’s not for us really to get involved in now, we’ll focus on the match. I suppose those debates and opinions will always be there, it’s part and parcel of it and it’s water off a duck’s back really.
“It probably is (unfair). But to be honest, I don’t give it too much attention. My motivation is getting back to an All-Ireland semi-final and getting back to a scenario where we’re playing at Croke Park on the biggest days of the season. That’s our real motivation and anything else doesn’t get too much airtime with us. It’s where you want to be, playing in the big games and that’s the really big deal for us.”
Optimists around Galway will note that while they’ve lost All-Ireland and Leinster finals in the last 10 months or so, both of those were to Kilkenny and nobody should be too ashamed of that.
“I still don’t think it’s anything you brush off or accept,” said Callanan. “You don’t want to lose to anyone, you want to win all the games you play and you want to be at the top of the pile yourself. You wouldn’t be brushing it off easier because it’s Kilkenny or anything like that. It’s still heart-breaking any time you lose. You put in all the training to be coming off the field as the winner at the end of it all. What’s the point doing it all in the first place? No, I definitely wouldn’t say it’s easier to accept.”
The sense is that Galway, coming off those final defeats and Allianz League relegation, and having ousted Anthony Cunningham as manager, have more to losethan Clare by exiting the Championship this weekend. Callanan shrugged and said it’s a win or bust scenario for both counties though admitted missing out on the Leinster title has sharpened Galway’s focus.
“The bit was between the players’ teeth as soon as we started back this year, if it’s not then you’re not going to last the pace,” said the Kinvara man.
“Is it between our teeth a bit more now after the Leinster final? I’d like to think so.”
Tipperary legend Brendan Cummins, who has turned to punditry himself since retiring, said he could partly understand where Loughnane was coming from with his comments which, he believes, were rooted in deep frustration with Galway.
“I think when Ger spoke it was more out of frustration because you see unbelievable hurlers like Galway have and you want to go down and shake them and say, ‘come on, express yourself, you’ll regret it otherwise’,” said Cummins. “There was a bit of a jibe going on with his comments, at Galway, but also frustration as a hurling man, and that’s me looking on as well. A lot of the Galway players will spark off those comments and hopefully we’ll see the real Galway on Sunday and it should be a good game, God knows hurling needs it.
“But I’m voicing my own opinion on it there too. After beating Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final last year they kind of looked like they were fulfilling some kind of potential. When I was walking away from the stadium I was saying, ‘maybe Galway have arrived and something good for all the world has come out of all the heartache Tipp are feeling today’. But I was twice as angry leaving the stadium after the All-Ireland final when I thought, ‘we would have done better than that’. Galway beat us, they showed passion.
“It looked like a real moment, then it just petered out after half-time in the final.
“You had players standing waiting for others to do it and you just felt, ‘go on, bust through that glass ceiling for yourselves lads’ and I think that’s a frustration for all hurling people looking at this Galway team. It must be really hard for them inside but they’re the only ones that can fix it.”
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