Monday 20 November 2017

'This is where big stuff starts' - Hayes

Galway’s Jason Flynn wheels away after scoring a goal during their NHL Division 1 final victory over Tipperary but Conor Hayes doesn’t believe any form lines can be drawn from that game in April. Photo: Sportsfile
Galway’s Jason Flynn wheels away after scoring a goal during their NHL Division 1 final victory over Tipperary but Conor Hayes doesn’t believe any form lines can be drawn from that game in April. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Galway hurlers are facing a defining month in their careers where securing the Liam MacCarthy Cup is an absolute imperative, according to former All-Ireland double-winning captain, Conor Hayes.

Galway hurlers are facing a defining month in their careers where securing the Liam MacCarthy Cup is an absolute imperative, according to former All-Ireland double-winning captain, Conor Hayes.

And while he believes they are equipped to rise to the challenge, he does not share the overwhelming sense of confidence that's sweeping through the county.

"You've got to be sensible and deal in logic rather than emotion. Galway have a right good chance of winning the All-Ireland but that on its own won't win it, no more than not having won it for a long time will be any help either.

"It's all about being clinical and taking the performance levels as close to the maximum as they can. They have to do that and see where it takes them," said Hayes, who led Galway to All-Ireland glory in 1987 and 1988.

Nobody in Galway thought that they would be waiting for the next title almost 30 years later, but despite reaching six finals, the drought continues.

"I said in 2015 that Galway might never get a better chance to win an All-Ireland but it didn't happen that year. This is probably an even bigger chance but that's all it is.

"The delivery has to come now. Setting yourself up to win it is never enough. There has to be a follow-through," said Hayes.

He is surprised by the All-Ireland odds that have Galway much shorter than Cork, despite the latter's golden summer.

"You can't take much notice of odds. Cork beat Tipperary, Waterford and Clare. That's really good form and, with all due respects to Dublin, Offaly and Wexford, a harder route than Galway had in Leinster.

"Galway's win over Tipperary in the league final seems to be taken as the most reliable guide to the championship. I have my doubts about that. Tipperary didn't turn up at all that day - they were terrible everywhere.

"Galway played well and did what they had to in the Leinster championship too but they would be the first to accept that they weren't really tested. It will be a lot different on Sunday," he said.

Galway have acquired a reputation over the years of reacting poorly to favouritism but Hayes does not accept it's an issue with this team.

"Why should it be? It's an experienced group so whether people are telling them they are going to win a game, it shouldn't count any more than people telling them they'll lose. It's all about performance and nothing else."

Uncertainty

The uncertainty in the Tipperary full-back line is being flagged as an area for Galway to exploit but Hayes doesn't go along with the widely held view that it could be the difference between winning and losing.

"I was surprised to see James Barry in the corner - I don't think it suits him - but you wouldn't want to assume that because something happens in one or two games, it will continue.

"The Tipperary full-back line got a lot of stick after the Clare game but that takes no account of them being up against a very good full-forward line. Shane O'Donnell, Conor McGrath and Aaron Cunningham would trouble any full-back line but that seems to be forgotten.

"I know it well from my own playing days that a full-back line is only as good as its outfield players. If enough good ball comes in, top forwards will make it count so what's happening further out is just as important, even if full-backs always get the blame if things go wrong.

"You can talk all you like about tactics and plans and shapes but, in the end, most games are won and lost by the individual quality of the players. People talked about how to beat Kilkenny during their best years, all about setting up in a certain way, matching them physically, running at them etc, etc.

"You could do all you liked but you wouldn't beat Kilkenny unless you could out-hurl them. That's why they were so good and why they won so much. And you won't beat Tipperary unless you out-hurl them too," he said.

Hayes believes that Tipperary's desire to retain the All-Ireland title for the first time since 1965 is a powerfully motivating force that should not be under-estimated.

"They will be thinking 'two more wins and we've done something that hasn't been done in Tipperary for a very long time.' That's a big incentive.

"Galway's need is different. They just want to win an All-Ireland to prove they can do it. They have had a lot of hurt, which they now need to harness in a positive way. This is a huge opportunity for them.

"They know that another failure would be devastating. Coming back next year would be very hard after that. I believe they can win the All-Ireland, not just on the basis of what they've done this year but because there's more in them.

"And there has to be if they are to win because what you did earlier in the year is never enough when you reach this stage of the championship. This is where the big stuff starts," said Hayes.

Irish Independent

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