'Anything less than an All-Ireland won't be good enough': Galway under pressure after manager heave
Collins insists Tribesmen can handle pressure
Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30
So here they stand. Relegated and backed into a corner, with the Championship still only coming into view.
There's only one way the Galway hurlers can go from here, and David Collins doesn't see the point in shying away from it.
They need to win an All-Ireland to justify their stance over the winter that eventually saw Anthony Cunningham ousted from the manager's seat.
It is, Collins agrees, kill or be killed.
"That's the only thing that's going to be acceptable to both players and supporters," Collins replied when asked if winning the All-Ireland was their shot at redemption.
"So that's what we're aiming for. We're not saying we're going to go out there and win one or two games and be happy with that.
"It was a disappointing League campaign we had. But you learned a lot, we learned a lot."
So Galway are already feeling the heat. It's a strange position for a team who were 35 minutes away from an All-Ireland title last year to find themselves in.
But forcing managers out of a set-up is high risk stuff, particularly when that manager has steered the county to two All-Ireland final appearances.
"It does add pressure," Collins offered frankly. "What happened, happened but it's gone and the players aren't dwelling on it.
"We're in there training like we were last year and we're under a new structure and enjoying it but there is pressure of course.
"That's why I say that anything other than an All-Ireland final is not going to be good enough. That's what the pressure is, and if you shy away from that where are you going to go?
"We wanted change and we got change. Now we have to fulfil our side and do it. Players understand it and players are aware of it.
"I'm personally aware of it and I know what goes on but it's really down now to the Championship and focus on Westmeath in two weeks' time."
Last year's beaten All-Ireland finalists find themselves fifth in the market to win this year's title. It looks perhaps a little generous given they are 1/50 to beat Westmeath in the Leinster quarter-final and should they win that, they'll have to see off either Offaly or Laois for a place in the Leinster final.
Collins, however, understands the uncertainty that surrounds his team.
"You can kind of see where they're coming from because we've been so inconsistent and been relegated this year and they're looking at us thinking, 'you're not going to come through'," he accepted.
"But as underdogs we've been at our best. It's a point you want to prove and that's the attitude we're going to have to go out with this year.
"We stuck to our guns last year in terms of what happened (with Cunningham) and we're going to be held to the pin of our collar really, and anything other an All-Ireland really is not going to be good enough. So yeah, there's pressure there.
"We have to respond to that and I think it's no harm. Players want to win and want to get there so we're not being rated and we'll go in without expectation and that's the way we want to do it."
And while they'll be expected to get to a Leinster final, what will happen from there is anyone's guess. Galway's hurlers have long been a great unknown to their opponents but the problem is they are something of an unknown entity to even themselves.
"There's always so much made of Galway," Collins said at the 'Get Breathless for COPD' charity cycle launch.
"I'm long enough at it to see it. People think that we're so inconsistent, hot and cold depending on what Galway team turns up.
"And it really does depend. If Galway turn up on form like we did in the first half of the All-Ireland or even if you go back to 2012 and the Leinster final - with aggression, attacking, work rate - we can bring it to any team.
"You look at the intensity Clare brought to the League final; it was fantastic - the work rate, the blocking, the hooks. . .
"Now the whole game-plan and system they use with the extra-man defender is something we're going to have to learn to deal with because if you look at the All-Ireland final, in the second half Kilkenny dropped back two men and we weren't able to counteract it and we were putting in ball and it was coming straight back out with interest.
"So we have to learn how to deal with that and counteract it, management and players alike."
A career spanning 13 seasons has gone by in the blink of an eye but Collins plans on going to the well as often as he can.
The end is coming, and coming too soon for him, but he'll keep pushing back against the flow of time. As long as the phone keeps ringing and the body allows, he'll take every chance to play for Galway. And just maybe his perseverance will be rewarded.
"You're not there to win one game at the start of the year, you're there to win the All-Ireland. There's no other reason that we play and we hurl and we train seven days a week for," he said.
"So if you don't have your sights set on an All-Ireland, what's the point? You have to have drive, you have to have ambition. I think this team we've built this year and over the last couple of years has ambition.
"We just need to click in terms of all singing off the same hymn sheet and if we do then I don't think there'll be too many teams that live with us.
"But it's just going to have to come (down) to work rate, aggression and a want to win."