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Friday 2 December 2016

Smith rewinds horror DVD to drive on

Looking back on last year's Tipp trauma was torture for Andy - but Galway are now in a far happier place

Andy Smith feels Galway have a point to prove against Tipperary tomorrow.
Andy Smith feels Galway have a point to prove against Tipperary tomorrow.
Smith in action against Dublin during the Leinster Championship

It's difficult to know whether you call it tactical therapy or psychological punishment - or both - but Galway knew it had to be done once their progress to tomorrow's All-Ireland semi-final was sealed.

There they would face Tipperary. Champions of Munster. Perhaps more pertinently, their conquerors last summer. And so out came the match DVD, to rewind the clock on a traumatic 15-point turnaround and another 'what if?' day for Galway hurling.

Andy Smith winces at the memory of that nine-point defeat. "We were six points up with 18 minutes to go, or something, and we just completely crumbled," recounts the 32-year-old midfielder.

"We just lost all shape. I don't know if it was nightmares looking at it there, only a few weeks ago … we lost complete shape in the half-forward line and midfield, and Tipperary just outworked us.

Collapse

"We were competitive up to a certain length of time and we just seemed to collapse. It was very soul-destroying to watch it again."

But it had to be done given that Tipp loom next and, as the old adage goes, he who fails to learn the lessons of history is condemned to repeat it.

"You'd have to be looking at clips anyway," says Smith, a panellist when Galway lost the 2005 All-Ireland decider to Cork and a starter for both 2012 finals against Kilkenny, epic stalemate and replay defeat.

"With the way the game is gone, you get emailed your clips from previous games and your opponents going forward ... you have to do a lot of research on that too."

That painful late fadeout came at the end of a gruelling fortnight for Galway, who had faced Kilkenny over the previous two weekends in Tullamore. It begs the question whether fatigue was a factor heading for Thurles, but Smith refuses to lean on that crutch.

"It just seemed to all crumble from beneath our feet, and you can't really put a finger on it," he says.

"We didn't obviously work hard enough that day, and we just didn't carry it through. I suppose that happens in certain games; when you're trying to swim against the tide it's very hard to get progress, and that was the case that day. It was just demoralising to look at it again."

But, he assures, "we've a better squad this year definitely than last year. There's a good collectivity there within the squad, and a good unity."

Yet it hasn't been all plain-sailing to the semis, either. He recalls some of the "hurtful" criticism that followed their heavy league quarter-final defeat to a then-unheralded Waterford.

"We were in a bad place," Smith admits, "but we just had to get down and work harder and start grafting again.

"And we knew that we weren't as bad as what we showed against Waterford. That day down in Walsh Park, nobody seemed to perform - Waterford steamrolled us."

Onto Leinster, and that fraught deadlock with the Dubs. "They could have beaten us, if David Treacy got that free, and it seemed to gather momentum after that," he says. "Obviously we hit a stumbling block with Kilkenny ... but we picked ourselves up going into the quarter-final.

History

"There was a lot being said about Thurles, not winning championship games there and the history against Cork, but we started off very well and had a very good victory."

Bizarrely, they scored 2-28 and won by 12 points despite amassing a staggering 23 wides. Joe Canning, of all people, tallied eight of them.

"It was great that he hit the eight wides, because he better not do it the next day!" quips his Portumna colleague. "There was very little - they just tailed off near the end - and if those eight scores went over Joe was a great lad. Look it, Joe knows himself, he's his own worst critic ... but it was great to have the luxury that Joe had an off-game by his standards, and the rest of the boys stepped up to the plate. We've some fantastic forwards - not only Joe."

It all leaves Galway ideally positioned, you might argue, for tomorrow's big step-up against Munster's finest.

"That's the beauty going into the semi-final," Smith concludes. "Obviously we have an awful lot to work on going in against Tipperary, with some of the poor decision-making and shooting inaccuracy that we showed against Cork. Look, it's a good place to be - winning a quarter-final relatively comfortably but having lots to work on."

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