Galway star David Collins: We have to hate Tipp to beat them
Hunger, intensity and attitude are the key in Galway's quest to end their All-Ireland heartache, says Collins
DAVID COLLINS is among the most open, engaging, downright likeable interviewees you'll come across. And then he says something that suggests you'll see a different Collins - and a different Galway - when they cross the white line in Croke Park this Sunday.
"We have to take it that we nearly hate Tipperary," he declares, "that they're in our way and we need to get them out of the way."
No more Mister Nice Guys ...
For too long (27 years) and despite a multitude of underage successes, Galway have come up short in the race for the Liam MacCarthy. Either they couldn't match the aggression and attitude of that year's benchmark (frequently Kilkenny, several times Tipp) or they simply couldn't match their consistency.
Every so often these great enigmas would make a beguiling burst, slay a heavyweight in the semis ... then fall short in the final and afterwards career back to square one.
Collins knows the score: he finished 2005 as Young Hurler of the Year but with no Celtic Cross after Galway lost the All-Ireland decider to holders Cork; he ended 2012 as a first-time All Star but still no All-Ireland after losing the replay to Kilkenny.
There followed two depressingly fallow seasons. What happened?
Collins offers three explanations: "The intensity in training, and lads fatiguing, and lads kind of expecting to get back there. That's one of the biggest things that I see. When you're in an All-Ireland final, lads think you're going to be here every year.
"When I look back to 2005, we thought we would be in All-Ireland finals year on, year on - and it just didn't happen. The hunger and the intensity and your attitude, those three key points. Your attitude has to be right, the hunger and the desire has to be there, and the intensity that you bring to training every night has to be there.
"When Galway are like that, in that zone, we're dangerous. That's why we're here where we are."
Few would have predicted this at the end of March, after Galway became ensnared in Waterford's defensive web and lost a league quarter-final by eight points.
Afterwards, the local obituarists were forecasting the inevitable summer demise of Anthony Cunningham's four-year tenure ... it's August and they're still waiting.
"That was a disaster of a day down in Waterford," Collins recounts, "but it was a learning curve too."
Not just in terms of how to handle a sweeper system but in terms of attitude. As for the criticism that followed, he shrugs: "I personally don't take any offence to any comments anyone says. You're on the field, I'm on the field, and that's where you take it."
More recent on-field time has been curtailed by the hamstring injury that KO'd him for the Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny and all bar a fourth quarter cameo against Cork.
He made himself available for a quarter-final that came "too soon," he concedes. "I was 85 percent for that game, and Cunningham knew that ... but I've trained hard for the last two weeks and I'm definitely fit for next weekend."
But not a definite starter. And that helps to explain Galway's latest renaissance: their "fantastic" aggression levels this year stem from the training ground, and that won't ease off simply to mind bodies for a semi-final.
"I'm definitely not letting up because if I let up, I ain't getting on the team," he points out.
That aggression was encapsulated by Johnny Glynn's quarter-final tour de force. The Ardrahan man's post-match RTÉ interview was the stuff of internet legend before he had even left the ground ("He got plenty of abuse in the dressing-room, no mind on the bus!") but what preceded his impromptu expletive was the key for Collins.
Glynn had set the gung-ho agenda within a minute, scoring an audacious goal that evoked memories of Kevin Broderick against Kilkenny in 2001. "How he didn't get milled going through is another thing," his skipper chuckles, but then clarifies: "Taking Johnny Glynn down is like taking a crane down."
And now for Tipp. "We were in the driving seat in Thurles with 15 minutes to go - and we took the foot off the gas," he says, harking back to last year's 15-point qualifier turnaround.
"So there's definitely payback there that we need to bring to the next game, that we say 'We are as good if not better than Tipperary'."
That same defiant positivity was captured by Anthony Cunningham after last month's Leinster decider, when he suggested to Brian Cody that they'd meet again in the All-Ireland.
Collins was happy that Cunningham (a "real players' guy") was given a fourth year, where previous Galway bosses could have walked the plank.
"We all use the excuse that it is the manager's fault in Galway," he muses, "but how is it the manager's fault if we go through manager after manager?"
As for his quip to Cody, the captain smiles: "Yeah, I like his attitude! You have to want to be there. If he said 'Yeah, we'll see them in a semi-final or we won't see them at all later in the year', what does that say? That would bring me to go 'Jesus, does that lad actually believe in us?'
"I firmly believe we are going to be there, he firmly believes it and the whole team does. So that's the attitude you need to have."