'How does a team with no leaders get into All-Ireland finals?' - Callanan
Published 22/07/2016 | 02:30
"I'd have preferred an All-Ireland medal!"
Colm Callanan's response to the satisfaction that a first All-Star brought him last winter is straight to the point, and straight to the heart of Galway's burning desire to get their hands on Liam MacCarthy for the first time since 1988.
With every passing year comes greater scrutiny about why the west hasn't been awake in nearly three decades, despite a steady stream of national success at minor and U-21.
The Kinvara keeper has witnessed many changes since coming on board in 2007 but no All-Ireland honours, and while harsh words have been spoken about the near-misses of deciders in 2012 and '15, this year's criticism takes the biscuit.
Former Galway boss Ger Loughnane cut to the bone following their Leinster final loss to the Cats and while Callanan pays no heed to outside voices, he won't have the squad's character called into question.
"I suppose there is no defining answer, you get over the line, then those questions may go away. But until we do everyone is going to try and find a reason," Callanan said.
"That's two years out of four it has happened us the last game of the year where we didn't get over the line but we were very close and even more attention was paid to it and 'why why why?'.
"If were caught in losing qualifiers or not getting to provincial finals there would be a bigger. . . but when it's losing All-Irelands, losing semis, losing quarters, there's a big emphasis - 'why do you not get over the line?'.
"How does a team with no leaders get to All-Ireland finals and semi-finals and big games against Clare next Sunday? That's not for us really to get involved in, we'll focus on the next match, it's part and parcel of it and it's water off a duck's back really."
The 34-year-old would gladly swap personal accolades for September success after being so close "you can smell it" and while the Cats defeat was another bitter pill to swallow, he knows Galway have no God-given right to succeed.
"It's a learning process. I don't think it's anything you brush off or accept, you don't want to lose to anyone, you want to win all the games and you want to be at the top of the pile yourself. You wouldn't be brushing it off easier," he said.
"It's still heart-breaking any time you do lose out, you want to be coming off the field as the winner or what's the point going on it in the first place?
"My motivation is an All-Ireland semi-final and get back to that scenario where you're playing on one of the biggest days of the season - that's our motivation, anything else doesn't get airtime."
The natural low after their loss to Kilkenny meant the mood would be difficult to lift but with Clare coming down the tracks there's no time for wallowing.
Callanan, who traded careers in architecture and engineering to work as a gym instructor and now runs the Elite Fitness Performance Academy in Oranmore where he certifies personal trainers, is expecting for a huge performance against the Banner.
"All eyes are on the next game, there's no point looking back at the final, just look ahead at the Clare game and see what comes of that," he said.
"The bit was between the players' teeth since we started back at the start of the year. If it's not, you won't last. Is it between our teeth a bit more? I'd like to think so."
The stakes are high and for this Galway side and their grand ambitions, it could be now or never.