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Cunningham insists Tribes can draw on final lessons and kill off Cats in replay

IF you spot Anthony Cunningham down in the local pharmacy enquiring about déjà vu tablets, leave him at it.

Almost six months ago he took an unfancied side into an All-Ireland final against a team in stripey jerseys who had a haul of silverware so large and sparkly, they'd make a diva jealous -- and came out with a draw.

Now, he faces the same battle. And just as the cries of 'they'll hardly beat Kilkenny twice in the one season' must have become excruciating over the past three weeks, so too will the assertion that 'the underdogs always lose replays' grate over the next three weeks, the most important segment of the longest year of Cunningham's eventful and successful life.

"Yeah, it's the team who kicks on that is key," he said yesterday, after the draw was wrapped up by Joe Canning with a little help from Davy Glennon and Barry Kelly.

"We showed a slight lack of composure in the finish with three bad wides in a couple of minutes.

"There's huge learning and it's the team who takes on the learning. They're a brilliant set of players that we have, there's a great panel of 33 players and they're willing to learn. We're confident that they will kick on.

"We've a lot of experience in the back room. I'm extremely proud of the work they've done, the coaching of Matt (Kenny) and the mental preparation Tom (Helebert) has put into the team.

"No doubt we'll get a huge reception from our players and they will kick on."

Cunningham addresses the media as part of a managerial triumvirate, side by side with selectors Kenny and Helebert, each choosing their own particularly area of expertise on which to answer queries.

So when it was put to him/them that the biggest danger now is for the players to lose focus after an elongated season, Helebert -- the man said to be intrinsically linked to Galway's new mindset -- insisted: "There's no problem with that. Today was a massive bonus for our players. It was an experience for the vast majority of them in their first All-Ireland final.

"We can't prepare them for that, telling them what it is. They've got to get through that and endure it. This morning we had only three players who'd played before in an All-Ireland.

"Now we're leaving with 15 guys who started and four who came on that have experienced that. That's huge for them."


Just like Brian Cody, Cunningham was vague about his verbal clash with the Kilkenny boss at the end.

"Anyone that plays on any team or involved in any team, if there's a close call, a free coming up towards extra-time or injury time or final whistle time, you're going to challenge it with the ref," he said.

"That happens, whether it's a club challenge match you play or any game you play, you're going to challenge it.

"If it was me, I'd be challenging it on the other side, that's for sure.

"There was no foul stroke in it -- it was brilliant sportsmanship by all sides. That's always been the case with Kilkenny; they're tough, they're hard but they're honest.

"There's no blackguarding. It was a brilliant spectacle and from that point of view, there are great sportsmen on both sides."