Sport Hurling

Thursday 29 September 2016

Victory would set us up for a number of years - Cunningham

Published 01/09/2015 | 02:30

“For us the Leinster championship was over. There was a new competition starting,” recalled Cunningham
“For us the Leinster championship was over. There was a new competition starting,” recalled Cunningham

In Gaelic games, you become conditioned to reticence from the protagonists.

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They may privately back themselves to the hilt, but publicly? That's for boxers.

So when a hurling manager comes out in the immediate aftermath of a provincial final defeat and reveals how he assured Brian Cody that he would 'see him in September,' it takes you by surprise.

How often are such words spoken with that certainty? You think of Ger Loughnane at half-time in Clare's 1995 All-Ireland final victory over Offaly, famously declaring to the cameras that "we're going to do it."

Anthony Cunningham thinks back to July's Leinster final defeat for Galway and wonders what else was he supposed to say to the game's greatest manager when they shook hands.

"For us the Leinster championship was over. There was a new competition starting," recalled Cunningham. "There is no point in being here if you don't believe you are good enough to win the All-Ireland.

"If someone says at the start of the year 'what's your ambition?', for us it is always the All-Ireland. So if you are still in the competition on July 7, for me it is the same as January 1.

"We had gone quite close. There was only three in it in the 62nd minute. There are fine lines.

"The big thing that is staring you in the face is that you are in Croke Park, you have played the All-Ireland champions.

"If you say we are finished for the year, the wheels would come off. You wouldn't do that.

"It is a step backwards only if your performance is really, really low and you couldn't buy a performance - as has happened (to us) in some years.

"But we were well buoyed by it. While we were unhappy with a lot of aspects, there was a huge base to build on."

And Cody's reaction? "He would say the same thing really. You are there to win. That is what the competition is there for. For us, it was about driving on for the next day."

After a couple of years failing to reach All-Ireland semi-finals Cunningham came under pressure at the end of 2014, but he was prepared to ride out that brief storm in the belief that there was much more in the players.

"You want to stay with a team that you believe is going to win. You still have to win! But you want to stay because you really believe these guys have talent," he said.

"The thing we have worked hard on is bringing the standards up. Kilkenny have led that. The amount of work these guys do, they just have to have nice easy jobs that allow them to do that or it is their lives really.

"We can't ask for any more. The work that goes into inter-county teams and on their own. . . that is satisfying and I am delighted to have the chance."

Galway went flat in 2013 but came much stronger last year, the battery only running down late on against Tipperary at the end of a third game in 13 days, two of which were against Kilkenny.

"We put a lot of emphasis on (finding out) why did we throw in the towel," said Cunningham.

"I think a lot of that evening (against Tipperary) was tiredness as well. I don't think you can play Championship hurling three weeks running."

The prize for victory on Sunday enormous. Win to end a 27-year spell without an All-Ireland and lay foundations for a big future.

"It is a new team and a very young team and we are dying to win this one because it would set us up for a number of years, we think," said Cunningham.

Irish Independent

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