Galway boss Anthony Cunningham has no doubts regarding the character and commitment of his players ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC final against Kilkenny.
Cunningham also believes that the sense of disappointment and underachievement that has lingered around Galway hurling has fuelled the fires of the current side.
“It’s gone so long since we’ve won - these guys really are on a mission,” the Tribesmen manager told RTÉ Sport.
“There’s great self-belief and a great work ethic. They work probably as hard off the training pitch as they do on it on the nights that they’re not involved in collective training.
“We’ve trained hard all year and we’ve improved in every match, and we’ve got to improve from the Tipperary match” - Anthony Cunningham
“They’re fantastic guys to work with, you couldn’t praise these players enough.
“There’s a lot of people who would say you deserve an All-Ireland, but deserving it doesn’t put any ball over the bar for you.”
Despite a series of impressive displays this summer, the two-time All-Ireland believes Galway’s performance level will have to reach a new zenith if the Liam MacCarthy Cup is to be landed for the first time since 1988.
“I suppose for Sunday you need every bit of character you can muster,” Cunningham said.
“You’re playing in an All-Ireland final and no bigger opponent than Kilkenny. We’ve trained hard all year and we’ve improved in every match, and we’ve got to improve from the Tipperary match.”
Galway conceded just a single goal to Kilkenny in their Leinster final defeat but haemorrhaged three goals in their semi-final success over Tipperary at Croke Park, and Cunningham is acutely aware that any defensive frailties are likely to be pounced upon by a Cats side not known for profligacy in front of goal.
“We’d have been disappointed with the goals and Kilkenny bring a huge goal threat as well,” Cunningham admitted.
“They only got one in the Leinster final but their forwards really played very well that day and also got a lot of points from out the field.
“The marking in our defence will have to be very, very strong.”
Ahead of Sunday’s decider, Cunningham’s feet remain firmly planted on the ground, his focus unwavering.
“For me, it’s just a job and you’re working way with the players and it’s very, very satisfying to see the players get into an All-Ireland final,” he added.
“But as I’ve said previously, we never think of the steps of the Hogan Stand.
“It’s all about the game for us, and getting better and improving. For me, and for the players, that’s the biggest satisfaction and the biggest goal that we have to have our focus on.
“We’ll be trying our damndest.”