That iconic line from American rapper Eminem springs to mind when you ponder what Henry Shefflin is thinking heading into Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC quarter-final against Cork in Thurles: could the real Galway please stand up?
here’s a fascinating extract in Henry’s autobiography which details his visits to the late Br Damien Brennan after Kilkenny’s shock Leinster final defeat to Galway in 2012 and the mental effort that was needed to build him back up to previous heights.
He questioned whether his best days in black and amber were behind him but, lo and behold, it was Henry who later dragged them through the second half of that year’s drawn All-Ireland final and eventually wound up as Hurler of the Year for the third time.
Henry was willing to go to any length to be the best and it remains to be seen if that winning mentality has been instilled in Galway. We all know how Henry reacted to defeat as a player, but how will a side he manages respond to adversity?
He can lead the horse to water but he can’t make them drink. Henry will be banking on the level of training and expertise that his players have accumulated over recent weeks, but it’s over to them now.
As a player I always knew how I’d react if I was in their shoes but when I was part of a management team you’re helpless on the sideline. I’d say he’s worrying about how his troops are going to respond, will they shrink or will they soar?
There will have been stern words after the Leinster final no-show and he won’t want any hint of a repeat of last year when a lame performance against Dublin was followed up by a woeful first-half display against Waterford which signalled the end of their summer.
He’ll wonder if the scars are still there from last year, not to mind two weeks ago, and the absence of leaders against Kilkenny is another concern. An awful lot of players threw in the towel near the end and Galway just need to stand up.
Their forwards have to hit the destruction button tomorrow. The personnel are there but they need much more from Cathal Mannion, Brian Concannon, Joseph Cooney, Conor Cooney and others when the chips are really down.
Will Henry persist with Mannion in the free role? If he does, you can be sure that Niall O’Leary will do as Mikey Butler did in the Leinster final and follow him everywhere he goes, like he has done successfully with Austin Gleeson and Tony Kelly in the past.
Will Jason Flynn start? Where has Evan Niland gone? Could there be a chance for another bright talent like Donal O’Shea? Brian Cody always tinkered after a defeat and it will be interesting to see if his star pupil does likewise while the absence of experienced hands like Niall Burke and Adrian Tuohey is now being sorely felt.
The narrative this season is that Munster is far stronger than Leinster and that three Munster sides will feature in the All-Ireland semi-finals, but that’s dangerous thinking for Cork and Clare.
Cork are in a great position after putting the turbo on in the second half against Antrim and Kieran Kingston will be delighted with how his forwards are humming, particularly the sparkling form of elder statesmen Conor Lehane and Séamus Harnedy.
The job of marking Conor Whelan is huge for Cork and it will surely come down to either Rob Downey or Damien Cahalane. If that duel is won or even halved, then they will be well on their way to the last four.
The Rebels would have shuddered at the thought of playing Limerick again six weeks ago, but they’ll now be eager to right some wrongs. The only way to get to the Treaty is to first make it past the Tribesmen and they should just about shade it.
The second game has the potential to be another cracker with Clare and Wexford seemingly unable to avoid each other. The Banner look like Wexford’s kryptonite with Brian Lohan’s men winning the last two meetings.
He won’t need reminding of last season’s summer clash where a slow start was all that undid Wexford, but having Peter Duggan and Rory Hayes available, and knowing they would be featuring from an early stage, is huge.
That sideshow has been nipped in the bud, but the disciplinary system really needs to be looked at. And if John Keenan was told off for his masterful refereeing display in the Munster decider, then the system really is completely broken.
Clare have kicked onto another level since last year, but this is still a dangerous prospect. Everyone is talking about another meeting with Limerick, but there’s a lot of hurling to be played before that and Lohan won’t want Clare falling into the same trap as my own county Waterford did.
Darragh Egan will feel like Wexford are due a win and a slice of luck against Clare and they won’t fear the task of lowering the Banner. They are on the side of the draw without Limerick so why shouldn’t they dare to dream about making their first All-Ireland final since going all the way in 1996?
The Wexicans arrive in good health after back-to-back wins and with Lee Chin and Rory O’Connor in scintillating form, they have everything to play for.
However, curtailing the influence of Tony Kelly is almost impossible with the form he’s in. He’s really hurt Wexford in recent meetings, but Damien Reck is the man for the job and keeping him to three or four points is a success against a generational player at his best.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe’s sweeper role will be crucial in denying Duggan and Co the goal-scoring chances that could make or break this contest while the use of Chin in his interchanging role from midfield to full-forward will ask some serious questions of Clare.
Lohan has really built a proper panel to see Clare head into July, though, and with talk of a return for Aidan McCarthy on the horizon, the Banner will get the job done and set up a mouth-watering semi-final date with the Cats.