'We're nowhere near the finished article' - Canning
With some of the game's finest players in their ranks, few could doubt Galway's place at hurling's top table, but inconsistency has dogged their 29-year quest to reclaim Liam MacCarthy.
An array of underage titles and overflowing conveyor belts were predicted to be a precursor to senior success but they've fallen short at the final hurdle four times since the turn of the Millennium, losing finals in 2001, '05, '12 (after a replay) and '15.
Amazingly, without pucking a ball this summer, the Tribesmen find themselves parachuted to the head of the All-Ireland market (7/2 favourites) as a result of Tipperary's surprise defeat to Cork last weekend, but the same questions persist.
Their League final demolition of the Premier showed everything to admire about Galway: power, pace, skill and a lethal attack capable of swatting any team aside, but far too often they have failed to follow up big performances.
Sunday's Leinster quarter-final display against Dublin will provide more clues of their health for 2017.
Joe Canning has long been Galway's go-to man but if he is to shed the tag of 'one of the greatest players never to win an All-Ireland SHC title', the Portumna ace realises that sporadic displays of their ability, particularly in attack, must become a thing of the past.
"For a lot of years it wasn't as if we were getting hammered, we were losing matches by a point and two points maybe. But we have matured more as a group, we're still a young group," Bord Gáis Energy ambassador Canning said.
"But it's nowhere near the finished article yet. There's still a long way to go for us to improve on different things.
Even in the first half of the League final, looking back now we were poor efficiency-wise. There's lots to improve on.
"Galway have always had good forwards. It was to get the consistency of the whole team playing together and getting back-to-back performances, because we were always able to beat anybody on any given day, but we were probably not backing it up the following day."
Expectations are high that 2017 could finally be their year but Canning and Co know exactly what to expect from the Dubs after barely surviving their Croke Park clash two years ago.
An 11-minute hat-trick from Cathal Mannion, and a further two goals from Canning, sent them on their way in a "strange" replay but the 28-year-old is wary of Ger Cunningham's young side.
"Dublin should have beaten us that day. Without a doubt, there's no point in saying otherwise. We were lucky enough in the replay, some of the goals dropped in over our heads and it was a flick, so it was a strange one," Canning said.
"It wasn't a true reflection on Dublin that day and they're under the radar for the last number of weeks so that's always a dangerous animal when you're playing somebody like that."
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