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Captain Joyce looking no further than Daly’s Dublin

Galway captain Damien Joyce has been around long enough to assess the strength of the current Dublin side and he knows that their first league title in over 70 years was no fluke.

Joyce's Galway were the only side to defeat Anthony Daly's men in the league, but you could argue that this was a self-inflicted loss as the Dubs hit 19 wides that day in Parnell Park.

Joyce was not surprised by their intensity and skill levels and reckons they can rightly be held among the best in the country now.

"I don't know if you would say Dublin gave us a fright in the league because their season has been so good. It is not like they are upsetting teams anymore, they are up there competing with the very best," said the Capataggle clubman.

"Their standards are very high and the week after we played them in the league, they drew with Kilkenny in Croke Park.

"And then they came out and beat Kilkenny in the league final as well. They have a consistent level of performance there now."

Much debate has surrounded Galway's stuttering performance against Westmeath in their Leinster quarter-final two weeks ago. Entering the final quarter the teams were level, but thanks largely to the finishing instincts of Cyril Donnellan, Galway made it through to face the Dubs.

But, according to Joyce, they were well aware of the potential pitfalls that awaited them in Mullingar.

"Sometimes games can be like that. If you win it by a lot it is expected and if you don't everyone says you are not going as well as you should be.

"We have been involved in a good few games like that over the years where you are expected to win well and sometimes it doesn't work out. It can be hard to break down teams sometimes; there are loads of examples of that recently where the overwhelming favourites just about took the win.

"A lot of things can happen in a one-off championship match, but those are the tests we have been looking forward to tackling since we put the gear bag in the boot back in the winter."

But for long swathes of the winter Joyce doubted if he would get the chance to take to the field at all in the early season competitions.

After being named captain by John McIntyre in February, Joyce -- the first man from his club to captain the Galway senior team -- was laid up with a groin injury. A long road of rehab awaited, but the months of effort were worth it all, he says.

"When you are out injured it is more frustrating than anything else. You feel like a bit of a fraud really.

"You are standing around doing nothing at training and you are not able to take part. But even going through your gym programmes and doing your own thing can be pretty laborious.

"Luckily Joe Gantley and myself were in the same situation, really. We had similar injuries and ended up doing the same type of recovery work, which really made it a bit easier. We were trying to cling to every bit of progress we were making, but, thankfully, both of us are back at it now."

Blending a day job and a private life with a career as an inter-county hurler can be a battle for many, but Joyce is thankful for every minute he gets in the maroon and he has no intentions of crying off just yet.

"You never know how long you have to go, but the main thing is to keep injury free and stay enjoying it, and as long as I have that, I'll be happy," said the 30-year-old.

"It is more of a lifestyle choice than anything else. Lads work it different ways.

"Sometimes I might do some work in the gym or do a bit of training before I go to the day job, but other times I might do a bit in the evenings. It is just a matter of blending it.

"Anyone playing for the county is doing it because they love it and they always find a way to fit it in around whatever else they have to do. In a lot of cases, lads would prioritise training over everything else.

"It is some-thing that you get used to and I have been at it for a good while now. I don't know what it would be like not to be doing it every day."

His no-nonsense approach to the game was one of the key reasons he was handed the captaincy.

"The way I have looked at it is to not do anything different than I have been doing over the years. As I said to the lads at the time, it is the biggest honour of my life to captain Galway.

"For my club at home and for my family, it is a once in a lifetime thing to do. It is something I am immensely proud to have been asked to do and something I really enjoy.

"But now we are determined to win and we are not looking any further than the next game. People might think that this is the usual story trotted out for the media, but when you are in a camp and you are trying to make progress with your team-mates that is the way you have to look at it.

"If you don't keep your eyes on the test ahead, you get sidetracked and that's when you caught. For us, we are trying to keep it very simple and keep it close to home and hopefully that will be a good strategy. We look no further than Dublin," added Joyce.

Irish Independent