Saturday 24 February 2018

Galway's Andy Smith puts no stock in Thurles 'graveyard'

‘We don’t dwell on it. We don’t think ‘oh, God, it’s Thurles’, insists Galway midfielder Andy Smith
‘We don’t dwell on it. We don’t think ‘oh, God, it’s Thurles’, insists Galway midfielder Andy Smith
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Thurles. Andy Smith brings up the conversation before anyone else sparks it.

The last time Galway travelled there, for a Division 1A League match against Tipperary in February, it was on their minds, a bogey to be laid.

They lost again though, extending their losing run there to six matches - incorporating three Championship exits to Waterford, Clare and Tipperary, two league outings to the hosts and a league semi-final defeat to Kilkenny, all since the league victory over Cork in 2010.

Add in two of the three consecutive All-Ireland U-21 semi-final defeats they have suffered there and the county's record in Thurles - since their last U-21 success against Dublin there in 2011 - can be pushed out to eight defeats on the spin.

In all, seven of their last 11 Championship 'exits' have come on the Semple Stadium turf. So for Smith, it's worth getting a few points across first.

It's not something they recoil from. Thurles is a fact of life for hurlers. It's inevitable that they'll be playing there given how it's equidistant from the main centres of the hurling hinterland.

"People say that it's not a happy hunting ground for Galway but it doesn't matter whether you're in Pearse Stadium or the Gaelic Grounds, I think more of a big deal is made of it.


"We don't dwell on it. We don't think 'oh God, it's Thurles.' We've had great days down there with the club and we've had good league performances down there (they've lost 16 of their last 18 league games to Tipperary at a variety of venues).

"We beat Cork there in 2009. You have to put that to the back of your mind - it's about your attitude on the day."

That attitude, he feels, will be right, better than it has been since they forced an All-Ireland replay out of Kilkenny in 2012.

"Our performances in 2013 and 2014, they weren't intense enough and we didn't want it enough, I suppose.

"Maybe it was lazy minds or lazy attitudes or whatever. Galway hasn't won an All-Ireland since 1988 so there should be no lack of motivation there. We should be producing a lot more with the talent that we have.

"I hope we are (close to 2012 form and attitude) I think we are, if we click and bring the proper attitude and proper game."

He admits it's a "bit scary" the fact that Galway have put so many good club and underage teams through but are still without an All-Ireland title in almost 27 years.

"I don't know what's going wrong. It's just an enigma, really," reflected the abrasive midfielder.

Accepting that Anthony Cunningham's post-Leinster final comments - where the manager told his counterpart Brian Cody that they'd see them again on All-Ireland final day - might have sounded "strange" but such positivity has been something they have been consistently trying to source all season.

"If you don't believe in yourself nobody else is going to believe in you. That's good to hear from the manager, that he has confidence in us and that seeps through the squad as well.

"You need confidence but there's a fine balance and you can't be cocky either. We respect every team.

"After the Waterford defeat (in the league quarter-final) there was a lot of soul-searching for us as players and the squad as a whole.

"There was a lot of negative stuff being said down in Galway but you just have to surround yourself with positive people and forget about that.

"We had a lot of stuff to work on which we did. We built a bit of momentum through the Leinster campaign and we just have to bring that confidence the next day."

When they have an outlet like Joe Canning, who can produce a goal like he did against Kilkenny, anything is possible from them.

It was Smith's ball that created the narrow of window of opportunity for Canning to exploit, his Portumna colleague operating on the premise that any ball into the full-forward is a good ball.

"Joe says to me more before every game, 'just get the ball into me, I don't mind. what way it comes, low, high, sideways, whatever.' That's just Joe, the way he finished it. Serious."

More than Thurles stigmas, Smith, like almost every other Galway hurler through the years, sets his clock by race week. If he's free to go the season has taken a turn for the worst.

"I don't want to be at the races. I'd stay away from it anyway because you'd be listening to too much stuff. You look at Clare, gone the last two years in July, for a team that has won it. Being out in July is not acceptable."

Irish Independent

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