All Ireland SHC Final: Replay marked arrival of new Galway
When two tribes go at it on Sunday, the challengers will bring a 'phenomenal' aggression into All-Ireland battle, says Corcoran
NIALL CORCORAN may be a fully-fledged Dub by osmosis at this stage, but you'll never take the Galway out of him either. Especially in the week of an All-Ireland senior hurling final that involves his native county - but not his adopted one.
It was a different story in early June when Corcoran was a helpless bystander - on the bench - as Galway tore into the shellshocked Sky Blues with ferocious first quarter intent.
It was already 3-5 to 0-1 inside 11 minutes of that Leinster SHC quarter-final replay in Tullamore, Cathal Mannion having gorged himself on a hat-trick. After 19 minutes it was 3-10 to 0-1, and it all ended in a humbling 5-19 to 1-18 defeat for Dublin.
Yet it wasn't merely Galway's prolific streak that struck the watching Corcoran that evening.
"The second game against them, just their aggression was phenomenal," he recalls, speaking at the launch of the One Direct Kilmacud Crokes All-Ireland Hurling Sevens, which takes place tomorrow.
"I remember a stage in that replay where Dáithí Burke just nailed Danny Sutcliffe and lay down a marker for that game.
"They've brought that aggression right through the whole season, even the Cork game.
"Galway are now known as a physical team. In the past, you'd hear the likes of Kevin Broderick and that saying that it wouldn't have been the case for Galway, so they've really changed their physicality.
"Their whole mindset has become very hardened, and I think they'll need that against Kilkenny on Sunday."
Ah yes, Kilkenny.
They have been the benchmark - for Galway, for Dublin, for Liam MacCarthy pretenders everywhere. Throughout the Brian Cody era, they have set the September standard when it comes to hurling ring-craft, consistency, voracious hunger, collective killer instinct ... and, of course, physicality.
No one tackles harder than a man in Black-and-Amber.
But that's what Galway, under Anthony Cunningham, are now trying to emulate if not surpass.
The likes of Johnny Glynn has progressed from a lean, almost lanky forward to someone who, when he hits, you know all about it.
"I've mentioned Dáithí Burke, Andy Smith and these guys - they're massive players. Even the likes of Jason Flynn and Cathal Mannion, they're young guys but they have the work done," Corcoran points out.
"I'm working this year with DCU, with the Fitzgibbon team, and we've Pádraig Brehony involved and the work he's doing ... physically he's in phenomenal shape.
"It seems to be a mindset down in Galway - 'We need to harden up' - and they've brought that. When you see Johnny Glynn and that goal he scored against Cork, that's the mindset they have.
"Cunningham's statement to Cody after the Leinster final (about meeting again in the All-Ireland final), a lot of us would have laughed at it but it shows the confidence he has and the ruthlessness there.
"I think a performance from Galway won't be good enough Sunday; they'll have to win it to satisfy the hunger."
There have been echoes this summer of Galway's maiden 2012 campaign under Cunningham - only that year they blitzed Kilkenny in the Leinster final before eventually suffering All-Ireland replay defeat to the same indefatigable foe. But then, to all intents and purposes, they disappeared from the contender list for the next two summers.
Corcoran reckons a lot of their new or even rediscovered aggression stems from the manager.
"Certainly in 2013 they had a very poor year by their own standards. Last year losing to Tipp, they probably just felt that they were lacking a small bit physically.
"I think the mindset though has really impressed me, that ruthless mindset of just going out ... we saw it against Tipperary (in the semi-final), they came back after three goals, they kept coming back. It's that mindset - 'We don't care what you score, we're going to win this match'.
"That comes from a collective belief in a squad. I looked at David Collins and Fergal Moore, two guys who would have been regular starters. There was no case of sour grapes; it was a case of 'If I come on I'll play my part'. That's what they have this year in Galway - and I think they'll need every bit of it."
Why? Because Kilkenny don't do fairytales and they don't bow down to anyone.
So how can Galway topple the kings?
"Ah listen, that's a great question," says Corcoran. "They're just so experienced.
"The one asset Galway have is they have forwards now. If you look at Cathal Mannion, people saying he scored seven points against Cork ... he scored five more the last day against Tipperary. How is he doing that? It's his movement across the pitch.
"It's very hard as a wing-back to hold your position when you're marking someone like Cathal Mannion or Jason Flynn, with the way those guys move.
"I think that'll be the key for the Galway forwards, to bring those Kilkenny backs around the pitch. They won't want that. I think if any team can do it, Galway can.
"Also they're going to have to find a good full-back for TJ Reid. I think, if I was the manager of Galway, I'd be putting back Dáithí Burke and getting young (Pádraig) Mannion to man-mark Richie Hogan.
"Dáithí Burke did a phenomenal job the last day on Bonner Maher. He plays football, so he knows how to play the man rather than the ball - and I think with someone like TJ Reid, you can't afford to try and play hurling there. He's such a threat in front of goal. I think they'll have to look at that seriously."
ALL-IRELAND SHC FINAL