“When they won the 2013 All-Ireland, it was the greatest fluke of all time.” Colm Galvin might have expected to hear Ger Loughnane say as much following a Clare defeat, but after winning through to a first Munster final since 2008?
Then again, Galvin has heard a variation of that putdown many times since Clare pipped Cork in a September replay four years ago.
“We’ve done nothing yet to say that we’ll beat Cork. It’ll be on the day that we’ll have to prove ourselves once more and that 2013 wasn’t a fluke because we’ve heard that from a lot of critics. It wasn’t really a fluke, it was the way we were playing. It was the momentum we had behind us that year, which was a help, and now Cork have that momentum behind them, so it will be very hard to stop them.
“We don’t listen to them. You are always going to get that no matter what team you are. You can let it affect you or let it drive you on and that’s what we’ve done; it doesn’t affect us. We go off and do our own business, we train very hard, and there is good morale among the group.”
Be it a form of criticism or motivation, Loughnane can’t really lose in making such statements. Galvin and his team-mates will remember what he told them at their medals presentation in December 2013: “No matter how much ye did this year — and you did brilliantly and we’re all terrifically proud — you will not be regarded as great unless you win again because now you are just on the first rung of the ladder of greatness.”
Galvin, though, says Loughnane is only one of a number who have had pops at the team.
“Not just Ger, so many people have said it over the years that maybe it was a fluke and it wasn’t what it was. I don’t think it was. It was a great year for us individually and as a team. Davy [Fitzgerald] did a great job with us and people are going to talk about you anyway, so there’s nothing you can do about that.
“They’re going to have their own opinion at the end of the day and it’s up to us to prove them wrong in a Munster final and show we’re worth our place in a Munster final and, hopefully, be good enough to win it.”
Theories explaining Clare’s inability to push on from 2013 are varied, but Galvin touches on two of them.
They didn’t work hard enough: “We are not stupid. We go back and we look and every team now has a GPS system and you are looking at the intensity and the distances.”
They might have become predictable: “Maybe people copped onto our style of play when we were playing with a sweeper and stuff, and maybe that just didn’t work for us when teams copped onto it.”
He can’t deny the facts — Clare have underperformed and Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney had reminded them of that prior to the win over Limerick.
“I’m on the panel six years and I’ve only won two Munster games. We’re sick of going through the backdoor, but it was putting a lot of pressure on us, whereas it would probably be a horrible feeling to lose a Munster final, but at least you’ve another chance.
“As Gerry and Donal have remarked on, they put all their eggs in the one basket for the Limerick game and we did put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win that, because we felt we were good enough to win it first of all and, second of all, it would take a lot of pressure off us, long-term.
“A lot of lads don’t have a Munster medal. It’s the one medal we really don’t have and it really irks me that we don’t have it. It’s one of those medals that every player who goes out there wants. Looking back on ’95, ’97, and the teams they had and you’d be looking to try and emulate that.”
Anthony Nash’s puck-outs are mentioned a number of times by Galvin. Having Dónal Óg Cusack to negate them should be of vital importance on Sunday. “He sort of started that short puck-out and he was very good at it. He’s one of the best keepers of all time, so we’ll be hoping to use his knowledge in terms of what way Nash will set up and try and stop him being so effective in the game. It is good to have it. I suppose he’s probably in a hard position, he’s so loyal to Cork as well over the years, but it’s definitely a big benefit for us.”
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