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Sunday 25 September 2016

All-Ireland or bust for veteran Collins

David Collins
David Collins

Liam MacCarthy or bust. That sounds like a dangerously bold declaration for a hurler to make at the start of summer ... until you see it comes from a Galway veteran who has suffered enough September heartbreak during a county career dating back to 2004.

It also emanates from the senior member of a squad that felt compelled to force a change of manager last autumn - despite reaching the All-Ireland final.

David Collins has been around the block long enough to know that the player-led removal of Anthony Cunninghan has upped the ante, big time.

"What happened, happened but it's gone and the players aren't dwelling on it ... but there is pressure, of course," he accepted.

"That's why I say that anything other than an All-Ireland final is not going to be good enough. That's what the pressure is and, if you shy away from that, where are you going to go?

Change

"We wanted change and we got change. Now we have to fulfil our side. Players understand it and players are aware of it ... but it's really down now to the championship and focus on Westmeath in two weeks' time."

Micheál Donoghue is the latest manager entrusted with ending Galway's long wait, now 28 years and counting. At half-time in last year's decider, it looked as if Cunningham would be their Midas man.

That faltering second half, the managerial heave that followed and then a topsy-turvy league ending in a relegation play-off defeat to Cork, have all conspired to remove Galway from most recent debates about who might claim the Liam MacCarthy this year.

"You wouldn't really get annoyed about it," said Collins of this would-be snub. "You can kind of see where they're coming from because we've been so inconsistent and been relegated this year and they're looking at us thinking, 'You're not going to come through' ... but as underdogs we've been at our best. It's a point you want to prove."

He added: "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 that we play and we train seven days a week for. So if you don't have your sights set on an All-Ireland, what's the point?

"I think this team we've built has ambition. We just need to click in terms of all singing off the same hymn sheet and, if we do, then I don't think there'll be too many teams that live with us. But it's just going to have to come to work rate, aggression and a want to win."

Closer to home, this is a particularly poignant time for Galway as it remembers Joe McDonagh, part of the squad that won their breakthrough All-Ireland in 1980 before rising to the summit of GAA administration.

Paying tribute to the former GAA president, who passed away on Friday, Collins said: "He did everything for Galway hurling. I think this has to spur on a Galway revival. He would love it. Everyone would love it. The strength was there. He was massive for Galway and he was an absolute character."

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