Aidan Harte: 'We always back ourselves'
By John Harrington
When Galway hurler Aidan Harte was born in 1998, his American-born mother Karen wanted to give him the double-barrelled first-name, Aidan-Ryan.
His father Josie wasn’t having any of it though.
Ryan might be a popular name in America, but the rivalry between the Galway and Tipperary hurling teams was burning hot at the time, and Josie didn’t want anyone thinking his son was named after the Tipperary wing-forward Aidan Ryan!
Josie got his way in the end and clearly has a knack for persuading Karen to come around to his way of thinking.
She was working as a phone operator in Pittsburgh when their paths first crossed - Josie was living in New York at the time and when he’d ring home to Ireland it was Karen who’d regularly connect his calls.
They both must have liked the sound of one another’s voices, because Josie persuaded Karen to come down to meet him in New York.
The rest, as they say, is history. They were eventually married and moved to Ireland in 1977 where they bought a pub in Gort, Galway.
Karen might have known more about the Pittsburgh Steelers than the Galway hurlers when she first made the move, but with a hurling fanatic like Josie for a husband and a son as talented as Aidan, she quickly got up to speed.
“She had no choice in our house but to buy into it,” Aidan Harte told GAA.ie. “She's probably a mediator more than anything now after games when things get fiery if we lose or anything like that.
“But she's grand, she's another voice that you talk to about other things. Certainly between myself and dad it's hurling, hurling, hurling most of time.”
Josie, a fine hurler himself in his playing days, played a big role in nurturing his son’s talent as an underage coach with Gort.
He clearly did a good job. The Galway panel has seen a massive turnover of players this decade, but the consistent Harte has been an ever-present since making his debut in 2010.
Something of an all-rounder, he won a National League medal with Galway in 2010 as a corner-forward but will line-out at corner-back when they play Tipperary in Sunday’s Final.
He might be a defender now, but his attacking DNA is evident in the way he hurls his man skilfully from the front.
“We've always been told at home from Dad and underage coaches coming up that if you have the ball, he doesn't, and you're in control of the game,” says Harte.
“The way the game is gone there's no room for taking a step back or standing off because corner-forwards are so fast these days that you really have to be hip for hip and you have to get out in front and try to win your own ball and keep it going out the way.
“But I don't mind if I strike the ball at all in the game as long as my man doesn't. When the ball comes in whatever about you getting it you've to make sure he doesn't anyway.”
His bona fides as a corner-back will be rigorously checked by the Tipperary attack on Sunday.
The five goals they slammed past Wexford on Sunday underlined why they’re the most dangerous forward-line on the country, and Harte knows he and the rest of the Galway defence will have to be supremely focused to contain them.
“You can't let your guard down until the 74th or 75th minute and you're walking back into the dressing-room,” he says.
“You could see that in the Wexford game the last day when there was 10 minutes to go and they were well up at the time, but they kept going for their goals.
"They still had the support play coming from midfield so that's something we'll be looking to tie down on Sunday.”
Galway will probably go into Sunday’s match as slight underdogs, but they’ve never feared Tipperary.
There’s been very little between the teams when they’ve met over the course of the last two years, and everyone in the Galway camp will go into the game confident they can get the win.
“I suppose we have that feeling against any team,” says Harte. “We always back ourselves and you have to do that.
“You have to have belief going out there. If you don't believe in yourself, there isn't much point taking the field, to be honest.
“The evidence is there in the last four games in the League and Championship. It's been tit for tat. Sunday might be no different.”