Galway have to make their greater need count
Thirty years ago this month, Galway hurling was in a strange place. We were preparing for the League final against Clare, knowing we had the quality to not only win that but to go on to greater things.
Yet, it didn't matter how often we told ourselves that, we couldn't keep little doubts niggling away. How could we? In 1986, we lost the All-Ireland and National League finals. A year earlier we lost the All-Ireland and Railway Cup (as Connacht) finals. And then there was the Oireachtas final. You're right, we lost that too. Our record in finals was so bad that people were beginning to feel sorry for us.
Well, everyone expect the teams that beat us in those finals.
That sort of experience can have one of two impacts. It can galvanise a squad or it can break their spirit. The dividing line is very thin. I remember talking about it to Phelim Murphy and Bernie O'Connor after we picked the team for the game with Clare and we all felt that one break would make all the difference.
So did the players. It was as if they realised they were sitting on that thin line and unless they moved to the right side quickly, they might never get there. We beat Clare - luckily it must be said after they missed a late goal chance when we were two points ahead - and the impact was huge. It was as if a weight lifted from the squad, who went on to win two All-Irelands and another League over the next two years.
I have always believed that beating Clare in the League final changed everything for that Galway team. I now believe that beating Tipperary could well have a similar effect on the current group. You'll hear plenty about how Tipperary have gone so long without winning a League the year after being crowned All-Ireland champions that they are doubly-determined to succeed tomorrow.
I'm sure they are, but Galway's need is even greater. They would feel that if Joe Canning and Adrian Tuohy hadn't got injured during last year's All-Ireland semi-final, they would have beaten Tipperary. Having lost by a point, they then watched Tipp win the final.
If that and the memory of other bitterly disappointing defeats in recent years aren't enough to drive Galway ahead in the motivation stakes, what is?
As All-Ireland champions, Tipp will take more confidence than Galway into the game.
Galway need to counteract that by reminding themselves that they lost to Tipperary by a single point in last year's semi-final having beaten them by a point in 2015. It shows how evenly matched the squads are.
Tipperary handled the All-Ireland win well this time, unlike 2010 when elements in the county got a bit carried away. It might have rubbed off on some of the players too but it's different now.
The reaction to winning last year was far more restrained. Michael Ryan did an excellent job in keeping things in perspective, balanced between the joy of an All-Ireland win and the reality that, properly handed, it could be forerunner to a lot more success.
Galway-Tipperary games are usually free-flowing, high-scoring affairs and there's no reason to believe it will be any different tomorrow.
The key issue is how the defences deal with opposition which is capable of running up big scores. It's a major plus for Galway that Séamus Callanan is missing, for while Tipp have real strength-in-depth, they are still weakened by losing a player like him.
Indeed, it could make all the difference. Just as the loss of Canning for the second half of last year's All-Ireland semi-final tilted the balance against Galway, Callanan's absence could have a similar impact on Tipperary.
Also, Galway's need is much greater. You could see the confidence from the All-Ireland success oozing through Tipperary in this year's League. Winning the League doesn't have the same impact but can still be mighty important, especially for a team like Galway that has experienced so much frustration.
They need to harness the hurt in a really positive way, win the game and make a statement for the rest of the year. I think they will.
Losing wouldn't impact hugely on Tipperary but winning would be a massive boost for Galway. It's long overdue too.