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Three wise men ready for the second coming

BY now they are known as the three wise men of Galway hurling and, from the off, Anthony Cunningham has been at pains to stress there is no 'I' in his management team.

Rather, he is part of a collective brains trust with Tom Helebert and Mattie Kenny equal shareholders in the co-operative. Hence the fact that all three attend each post-match press conference, with Cunningham frequently delegating answers to one of his lieutenants.

It was the same story at Galway's second All-Ireland press night of 2012. For all their meticulous fine-tuning, this is one event they hadn't planned for in advance -- but both Helebert and Kenny were keen to accentuate the positives to be gleaned from forcing Kilkenny to a second day.

Galway may have surrendered a seven-point lead in the drawn decider but Helebert, who plays a key role on the psychological side of preparation, doesn't buy the theory that the so-called underdogs have left Liam MacCarthy behind them.

"We don't see it like that," he counters. "We see it that they still haven't beaten us. Life's all about opposites. What might be your opinion of the situation, we will take a different view . . . how we see it is that we still have a very strong case when we go to Croke Park on the 30th.

"We know we're fresh, we know we're fit, we know we can hurl, we know we can score big scores, we know we can defend.

"So when you start reaffirming all these things back to the group, you get the message through that 'We're not so bad!'

"And suddenly guys start looking at themselves a little bit differently, with a bit of positivity."

Helebert agrees "absolutely" that the biggest thing that has changed since the drawn final is one of public perception.

Beforehand, there was a prevailing consensus that Galway couldn't possibly repeat their Leinster final demolition of the champions. "The bookies, the public, 82,000 people bar maybe 12-and-a-half (thousand) from Galway or whatever, would have felt we were on a hiding to nothing, mission impossible, to try and beat the reigning champs twice," the selector points out.

Whereas for management and players, "the way we think about ourselves today is no different than the way we thought of ourselves when we played Dublin in the relegation play-off, or indeed when we played Dublin in the very first round of the league. Our effort in the training ground was all about improving, improving, improving, with every game you play."

That process is ongoing, and Mattie Kenny believes Galway are now well positioned to find that extra replay gear.

"Only three of our players had played in an All-Ireland final before," he reminds you. "I honestly thought we were mentally and physically very well prepared, and I was looking at the body language of the guys, they were taking it all in their stride, the occasion didn't seem to be getting to them.

"But irrespective of that, it was still a new experience for a lot of us -- including the management team. Thirty of our squad had never been there before, and we came through that very well. So that has to be a positive.

"You would be hopeful from a Galway point of view that the next day is a hurling match rather than the occasion," Kenny adds. "And if that's the case, then we'll want to go out and improve on the last day.

"We performed well in the first half but our performance in the second half wasn't up to standard; Kilkenny bossed the game, they came at us and they won the second half.

"For us, a big positive was that our character was tested in that second half. Other times, other teams might have thrown in the towel -- but our guys didn't."