Burke wants Galway to maintain high standards
By Cian O'Connell
While the challenge was more mental than physical David Burke takes encouragement from how Galway have adapted to the new Championship format.
The All Ireland champions were the only team to come through either province with a four match winning streak.
When asked whether Galway's mindset has changed following last year's silverware laden campaign Burke acknowledged the importance of hoisting the Liam MacCarthy Cup. "It gives you more confidence," Burke says. "It gives all the players more confidence, definitely.
"You can see lads are playing probably better than they were last year – some players, and some players aren't. You'll have that all the time. There's pressures on players, no matter what. There's pressure on a team, it doesn't matter if they're All-Ireland champions or the worst team in it. There's pressure on them to deliver, and that comes from within the county itself.
"Look, we're a hurling stronghold so there's going to be pressure all the time. So we just have to believe that we're good enough to be at the top table all the time."
Was the format particularly hard to adapt to? "Physically probably not," Burke answers. "It's more of a mental thing really from a player's point of view, you're coming down off the high of a game and you've to recover within two or three days and then mentally prepare for the next opposition.
"So it was probably more that. You can see players are flying fit these days and playing games week in, week out, unless they pick up an injury. I think it's more just getting up for the opposition and bringing the fight to them really, that's the main challenge of playing week in, week out.
"Other than that, it was really enjoyable. You're not training as much or as long, and you're really looking forward to matches as a whole panel effort. From that point of view we're delighted with how it's gone."
Burke is adamant about the talent coming through in Kilkenny and reckons Sunday's encounter at Croke Park should be interesting. "They're a hard-working team," Burke remarks. "Obviously they've instilled it in their performances over the last 20 years, and they were the standard-bearers when it came to that - if you work hard enough you'll win the games.
"And I think looking back on our campaign (last year) we probably were the hardest-working team in all the matches, that probably got us over the line eventually. No matter what way games have gone and the way they panned out.
"I think it will just come down to that again the next day against them. It's not going to be easy, it's going to be tough, it's going to be man on man, and it will be the team that works the hardest will ultimately win. They're a really good side, they'll have learned a lot obviously playing us, so it will be a massive test."
St Thomas' clubman Burke doesn't believe Kilkenny's approach has been altered. "I don't think so," Burke states. "What you get with them is simple hurling. Since I started playing against them, they play to the final whistle.
"It doesn't matter how things are going. You can see the last day against Wexford, they just stay going, stay going, stay going. And I think it's obviously something that we've tried massively and I think we're getting very consistent on it over the last couple of years.
"It's just you keep hurling on what's in front of you 'til the 70 minutes, no matter how things are going. I think that's just the belief. But we know, playing them in Croke Park, this is what we want and we want to get a victory over them in Croke Park, that's the key."
After the surprise 2012 Leinster Final win over Kilkenny, Galway suffered a string of disappointing summer losses against the striped outfit. "I think they were a monkey on the back for every team in the country," Burke says. "I think they drove everyone in the country mad really for a while … they were kind of this unbeatable team.
"But I think we changed that in '12 and made them look like, obviously their good team was coming to a bit of an end. They still fear us in a way, I think anyway. They still fear playing Galway. Obviously, we played them since - we've pushed them a lot along the way.
"A lot of their motivation was probably to try to stop us, really. If you look at it from that point of view, you can take a lot of positives out of it. So, for them to do well, they had to try to beat us, which is good. Look, we know there's massive history behind that, but times change and things move on."
Did that Leinster triumph in 2012 change the dynamic between Galway and Kilkenny? "I think we were always able to beat them on a given day," Burke replies. "I think it's just belief and mindset really, to be honest.
"They had greater belief and mindset over any other team. I think that's what they've instilled into themselves, more than skill or anything itself. They've massive belief in winning games and getting over the line.
"I think it comes down to the last 10-15 minutes; I think it will come down to that again the next day against them. It's a Leinster final, there's a trophy on offer and we're looking to win it, simple as that."
Burke isn't overly concerned about entering this weekend's game as warm favourites. "To be honest, everyone was kind of writing Kilkenny off last year, because they'd young lads coming through," Burke comments.
"But I knew them lads very well and I was saying they're very good hurlers and when they get going they'll be a serious team – and they are a serious team now. They've won the League against the odds, and throw a blip or two in the Championship and everyone is having them.
"So, look, they'll have their homework done, they'll have time to recover, so I think they'll be a different, formidable opposition again the next day. So we just have to be ready for that."