Galway captain David Burke leading by example
By Cian O'Connell
With an Allianz Hurling League and Leinster titles safely tucked away, Galway enter the All Ireland Semi-Final stage armed with belief and momentum.
Consistency has been achieved, nine straight wins offering proof of Galway's continued development, but now only capturing Liam MacCarthy will suffice.
That is the ultimate objective with Galway captain David Burke highlighting the importance of remaining cool in a high stakes battle.
"The more big games you've played, the more open you are to trying to put things right," Burke says.
"The big factor is it's coming down to composure when the game is there to be won. Whether it's just after half-time or with 10 minutes to go. You can't train for it, you can only train your mind in a game for that. "In the last couple of years we've been trying to do that, and we've come up against the eventual winners in the last two years.
“Tipp are a serious team, we're just going to have to believe that we can beat them for the full 70 minutes and make sure that we get the job done, and when we're walking in off the field that we have them beaten. That composure comes from playing and winning as well. Winning the Leinster Final has given us that belief that we can do it, and the League."
Tipperary defeated Galway with a late second half flourish at this exact stage last year. Burke doesn't believe that Galway lacked composure in that dramatic match. "I don't think so, no," Burke replies.
"When you come up against a forward unit like that, it's a small little mistake. It's not composure, it might just be a slip or missing a ball for a split second and the effects that can have is unreal.
"You cannot make any mistakes at the back. Concede your points and whatever. For goals, we're just going to have to be that bit tight and if they do score a goal, they can get a goal out of anything, we're just going to have to, like we did in the 2015 semi-final, get the next score if we can and build on it from there.
"It's such a small game of inches, a small mistake here or there can be very costly."
Burke is adamant that past meetings will count for little when the sliotar is throw-in at Croke Park on Sunday. In April Galway beat Tipperary in surprisingly emphatic fashion in the League decider.
"It won't be a big factor for us, but obviously will be a huge motivation factor for them coming into the game," Burke states.
"They will obviously want to put a few things right, but they have a few things to work on, no more than ourselves. They will be focusing on themselves coming into the game. The couple of players they'll have back will be a big bonus for them, the likes of Bonner Maher, he got through a serious amount of work the last day, just unseen work. He makes the forward line tick."
The St Thomas' clubman doesn't think it was a complete performance from Mícheál Donoghue's charges either.
"It wasn't really, no," is Burke's assessment. "We were disappointed with some of it, a lot of shooting we had that day, myself included.
"We hit a lot of aimless ball in the first half, it was only Jason's goals that separated us at times.
"I suppose when it came to it Tipperary were that small bit flat and tired after going a few weeks in a row. We pulled away in the end, it is going to be a difficult game.
"There is nothing separating the sides. As we have been saying before last year and the year before there was only a puck of the ball in it.
"I can see it going no other way, they are going to want it aswell. They took a lot of criticism in the last number of weeks, they are going to be up for it, but we are going to be up for it aswell."
Following that Galway triumph at the Gaelic Grounds, Burke felt that the teams would cross paths again in 2017.
"Yeah, definitely we knew we would," Burke admits. "We took the view that they were too good of a team to just go away like that, we knew they would be back.
"Whether we would be meeting them in August or September we knew we would be meeting them at some stage. Our plan was to go the direct route, our aim was to get to August, no matter how we did it.
"They went an extra game this year, last year we did with the Quarter-Final. It is no different, everyone's aim was to get to a provincial final, to win it, to go the direct route.
"They have just gone an extra game, they might be that bit sharper in the first 10 minutes, but we will be fine after that. We will get into it, I suppose, after that initial stage."
Burke feels that the confidence Galway's hurlers have attained is critical. "If you get confidence into any individual player they are going to play well, the same goes for a team," Burke responds.
"You can see the work Cork have put in, it just shows what hard work can do. They have put in hard work over the past 18 months and they have got to be a confident team. It can be very hard to stop a team like that.
"I suppose we are the same as anyone. Confidence is high, our players are playing well, the big players. It is just a matter of keeping that going. We are just playing that bit better as a team this year. We played some good hurling last year, but we obviously had things to work on. Hopefully we can get them right the next day."
Having reached three All Ireland Semi-Finals in a row, Galway have grown accustomed to hurling in August. Does that prove something?
"It does, we know we are up there and that we are good enough," Burke remarks.
"We were lucky to beat Tipp the year before last and they were the same then last year. We had the chances last year. In the last five, six, seven minutes we had point chances to bring it back level and to even go up. It is just about keeping that composure in the last few minutes.
"You will get your couple of chances. You could see the Clare lads the last day they had the couple of chances. If they got them it could have been a different finish to that game.
"It just shows you every chance you get is very crucial, right down to taking frees. You need to be on top of your game, all the top players need to be playing well."
Without an All Ireland title since 1988 is there a sense that the torch needs to be passed on to the current crop?
"Exactly, it was probably no different in Clare in '13 from the teams in the 90s. They have all become serious leaders that team in the 90s in Clare, it is kind of the same in Galway aswell.
"Every time Galway go well they go back to these lads and look for their insight. It is just time for us to step up, to deliver and delivering a performance that is good enough to beat Tipp.
"We talk about it a bit, but obviously you admire the lads that did it. That time it was back to back. It is more frustration, for me anyway it is.
"We are definitely good enough to do it, I think the general public in Galway sometimes can be a biteen soft. That seeps into the players and the panel aswell, it is just a matter of getting that overriding factor away from the players, just getting them believing that they can do it.
"That can be a slow process at times, but I think we are in a good place to do it now." Another exciting chapter in the Galway and Tipperary story will be penned at GAA headquarters.