Thursday 22 August 2019

'They still fear us in a way, I think anyway. They still fear playing Galway' - Tribesmen skipper on facing Kilkenny

Tribe skipper expecting titanic clash as they look to maintain their superiority over Cats

Captain David Burke believes Galway were the hardest working team in every game they played last year. Photo: Sportsfile
Captain David Burke believes Galway were the hardest working team in every game they played last year. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

You can see a little grimace move across Micheál Donoghue's face when David Burke proclaims that "Kilkenny are still afraid of Galway".

It's not the sort of statement Donoghue - sitting beside Burke at the top table of their Leinster SHC final press briefing - would allow himself to make, but his captain rarely pulls any punches and after trailing in the wake of the Cats during much of his days in maroon and white, it's nice to have the boot on the other foot.

Their comprehensive 2012 Leinster final defeat of Kilkenny ought to have signalled a changing of fortunes but what followed was a series of heart-breaking defeats as Brian Cody's men always had the upper hand.

However, the Tribesmen head into Sunday's Leinster SHC decider with a comfortable eight-point round-robin win over the Cats already under their belt - their first in six years - and Burke believes their Kilkenny itch has been well and truly scratched.

"They were really (a monkey on our back), but I think they were a monkey on the back for every team in the country, like. I think they drove everyone in the country mad really for a while … they were kind of this unbeatable team," Burke says.

"But I think we changed that in '12 and made them look like, obviously their good team was coming to a bit of an end. D'ya know, they still fear us in a way, I think anyway. They still fear playing Galway.

"Obviously, we played them since, we've pushed them a lot along the way. I think we were always able to beat them on a given day. It's just belief and mindset really, to be honest.

"They had greater belief and mindset over any other team. That's what they've instilled into themselves, more than skill or anything itself. They've massive belief in winning games and getting over the line when it comes down to the last 10-15 minutes. It will come down to that again the next day."

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From the first Sunday in September to Christmas last year was a bit of whirlwind for the St Thomas' clubman with everything that comes with being an All-Ireland-winning captain - Galway's first in 29 years - demanding much of his time.

The St Brigid's woodwork teacher - where he works alongside midfield partner Johnny Coen - enjoyed spreading happiness everywhere the Liam MacCarthy Cup travelled but the time came when everything needed to be parked with new challenges ahead.

"For me, trying to play at the highest level with Galway, you have to take into account that and just take a step back from all the dealings that were going on with the cup and that. Obviously you've a job as well to look after and you want to stay playing at the top level," the four-time All-Star says.

"So you had to be looking after yourself - your body and your mind. The last couple of months, since the end of January, I suppose, when I went back training, I've been focused fully on the team and playing myself… and hopefully playing well.

"You don't want to be giving an advantage to any team. I know we're in Division 1B but it's getting more competitive and you don't want to be giving any advantage to any team, to say that there's a chink in your armour.

"So from the start of that you're always mindful and you're forgetting about last year - this year is the only year that matters. And your performance in the next game is the only thing that matters, so from there on we were really mindful of that."

The 28-year-old feels All-Ireland success has given them "more confidence" and their four round-robin victories would certainly suggest so as they head into a provincial final against Kilkenny in the unusual position of overwhelming favourites.

That's something Burke places little stock on and he knows that they must maintain last year's tag of "the hardest-working team" if they wish to get their hands on the Bob O'Keeffe Cup for the third time.

"They're a hard-working team. Obviously they've instilled it in their performances over the last 20 years, and they were the standard-bearers when it came to that... if you work hard enough you'll win the games," Burke outlines.

"Looking back on our campaign last year we probably were the hardest-working team in all the matches, that probably got us over the line eventually, no matter what way games have gone and the way they panned out.

"I think it will just come down to that again the next day against them. It's not going to be easy, it's going to be tough, it's going to be man on man, and it will be the team that works the hardest will ultimately win.

"Since I started playing against them, they play to the final whistle. It doesn't matter how things are going. You can see the last day against Wexford, they just stay going, stay going, stay going. And I think it's obviously something that we've tried massively and I think we're getting very consistent on it over the last couple of years.

"It's just you keep hurling on what's in front of you 'til the 70 minutes, no matter how things are going. I think that's just the belief. But we know, playing them in Croke Park, this is what we want and we want to get a victory over them in Croke Park, that's the key."

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