Galway have struggled to back up their potential on the biggest days in recent years. Failing to push home an advantage in the 2012 and 2015 deciders, there is pressure on the Tribesmen to finally end a drought stretching back to 1988.
Most notably two years ago, Joe Canning and Co. had Kilkenny on the ropes, but when it came to landing the knockout blow, they lacked the conviction, and the Cats boxed clever to out-point their way to another title.
While it was another Galway capitulation on Jones’ Road, the team could not be accused of letting the occasion and build-up get to them, as they were the fastest out of the traps.
For Pádraic Mannion, it is an experience that can only stand to them ahead of Sunday.
“Most of the starting 15 had played in an All-Ireland final, apart from Gearóid McInerney and Adrian Tuohy I think.
“That’ll definitely stand to you. All the build-up and the hype, you just learn how to deal with it that little bit more.
“But at the end of the day, you have to go out for another 70 minutes of hurling. No different from the semi-final. It’s the same thing when you put everything aside.
“We dealt with it [the hype] very well in the lead-up to the game [2015 final]. I think in the second half, just the experience to be able to keep doing what you’re doing [is key].
“That’s something we have improved on. Even in the semi-final against Tipperary in the last two or three minutes, after 72/73 minutes, the composure that was shown. That’s something that we’ve learned over the years.”
While there are only a handful of Galway players who have no experience of a September decider, it is not a luxury enjoyed by Waterford, who only have Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and Kevin Moran within their ranks who played in 2008.
Galway overcame All-Ireland champions Tipperary in the most dramatic of circumstances four weeks ago, as Canning popped up at the death to send over a late winner. The luxury of having the Portumna star in the team is a huge comfort to Mannion.
“Joe is very accurate with his shooting, so you would have backed him 99 out of 100 times to put that over.
“Over the last few years we were probably lacking other players along with him. But this year especially, we have a really balanced team. On any day, there are different lads stepping up to the mark. The next day you’ll be hoping for the more complete performance. There are massive leaders throughout the team.”
Mannion and Galway now aim to replicate the heroes of the 1980s, who brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup back across the Shannon three times.
Times have changed since, and with Galway in the Leinster Championship, they take a longer route to the final, and the nature of intercounty hurling is completely different. However, the engineering graduate feels that the same principles remain.
“We have a gym in Ahascragh, Tony Keady used to be laughing at me when I was in there before training. I don’t think they had too much of that [in his day]!
“The amount of games you play now compared to back then. I used to be slagging him about [the number of games they played].
“He said to me that ten or 12 games is better than 10 years of sh*te!
“Things have changed a lot, but the principles always stay the same. The way he embraced the big occasion. The way he worked hard, the way he tried to get the better of his man every time. Those things will never change. Although the game has changed slightly, you’ll never change.”
Mannion and Galway look ahead to Sunday, with the weight of expectation on their shoulder, as they aim to replicate Keady and the team of the 1980s.
Make sure to check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, where we hear from Mícheál Donoghue as we preview the All-Ireland final.