Veteran David Collins has laid it on the line for the Galway hurlers, insisting it’s an All-Ireland title or bust and acknowledging that the player heave against ex-boss Anthony Cunningham has heaped the pressure on them.
Last year’s captain Collins refused to sugarcoat the situation after a difficult Allianz League campaign that yielded relegation to Division 1B and demanded his team-mates bounce back in style this summer.
The 32-year said that he’s viewing the Championship in terms of having ‘five games to win an All-Ireland’ and maintained that if the Tribesmen hit their stride then “I don’t think there’ll be too many teams that will live with us”.
Those five steps to heaven begin with a Leinster quarter-final tie against Westmeath on June 5 and, presuming they win, a semi-final with Offaly or Laois will await. Collins was reportedly among the group of Galway players that met Cunningham in the wake of last year’s All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny and delivered the news that the panel had lost faith in the manager, forcing his exit.
Things haven’t gone to plan so far under new boss Michael Donoghue though Collins was adamant that they possess the quality to gain “redemption” for last year’s final loss by claiming the Liam MacCarthy Cup for the first time since 1988.
“That’s the only thing that’s going to be acceptable to both players and supporters,” said Collins. “So that’s what we’re aiming for. We’re not saying we’re going to go out there and win one or two games and be happy with that.
“From a personal point of view, you’re not there to win one game at the start of the year, you’re there to win the All-Ireland. There’s no other reason we play and we hurl and we train seven days a week. If you don’t have your sights set on an All-Ireland, what’s the point? You have to have drive. You have to have ambition.
“I think this team we’ve built this year and over the last couple of years has ambition. We just need to click in terms of us all singing off the same hymn sheet.
“If we do, then I don’t think there’ll be too many teams that will live with us.
“It’s going to come down to work rate, aggression and a want to win.”
Collins agreed that the push against Cunningham despite guiding the team to All-Ireland finals in 2012 and 2015 was a big move that has added to the pressure on the team.
“That’s why I say that anything other than an All-Ireland is not going to be good enough,” continued Collins. “That’s why the pressure is on and if you shy away from that, where are you going to go? We wanted change and we got change. Now we have to fulfill our side of it.
“Players understand that and players are aware of it.
“I’m aware of it and I know what goes on but it’s really down now to the Championship and the focus is on Westmeath.”
Collins said that aside from answering their critics and delighting their fans, an All-Ireland success this year would be particularly special in the wake of the death of county legend and former GAA President Joe McDonagh.
“I think this has to spur on a Galway revival,” said Collins. “He would love it. Everyone would love it. He was a massive figure for Galway and he was an absolute character. It’s a massive loss and my condolences go to his family, of course. We as Galway hurlers will go out and do him proud hopefully this year and really turn things around. It’s a powerful message that we have to drive the whole thing on.”
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