It was the Tuesday evening after Galway’s All-Ireland final win that the magnitude of their achievement finally registered with Conor Cooney.
Sunday’s celebrations played out at the Citywest Hotel, Monday’s homecoming finishing up in a packed Pearse Stadium.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of St Thomas’, the home club of Galway captain David Burke, to toast Liam MacCarthy.
Cooney is also a St Thomas’ man and the 25-year old will never forget the reception they received.
“It was fantastic, I remember seeing the cups side by side (Galway won the minor also) and it really hit home,” Cooney remarks.
“You’re looking out at your clubmates, your family. It was a real moment where things really hit home and you thought, ‘Jeez, we’re after achieving something here’. It was a fantastic night.”
Cooney played a lead role on September 3, hitting three points from play.
Having been there in 2012 and ‘15 when the Tribesmen came up short to Kilkenny, he reckons they “wouldn’t have been let back across the Shannon” had they again fallen at the final fence.
The 6 foot 2 inch forward accepts a third final defeat in six years would have been hard to come back from.
“There was a lot of pressure there but in the build-up we were just focusing on ourselves.
“You sacrifice your whole life to hurling and there are such fine margins trying to win knockout hurling. You get to a final and you’re narrowly beaten a couple of times and it’s very difficult, it’s heartbreaking.
“If you put yourself under too much pressure that you’re thinking about, ‘Oh we have to win it this time’, you’re setting yourself up for failure. We just stuck to what we had been doing. Nothing changed, we kept going the way we had been.” Certainly, the 0-26 to 2-17 victory over Waterford made up for those previous final falls.
“It putsomedemonstorest. You’d still be looking back and thinking, ‘what could have been done differently’? But if you dwell on it too much you’re only destroying yourself.
“When we did win, there was an overwhelming feeling of relief. We’d been under a lot of pressure for a long time because the Galway public is mad into hurling and I suppose they expect so much every year and we finally achieved the goal we set out to achieve.”
The success of Micheál Donoghue’s charges in being first to the mountaintop has dimmed the stage light on the Galway heroes of ‘88 – the last team to bring Liam MacCarthy west of the Shannon prior to September. Now, can Cooney and company match that team in successfully retaining their crown?
“We grew up on stories of what those teams achieved and I suppose they were idols to us and yeah, it’s something you want to emulate (a back-to-back). They did it in ‘88 so absolutely, it’s something you’d set out to try and achieve.
“It’s not easy, they’re such fine margins. We’ll enjoy this, it’s the first one we’ve won for a long time. We’re back training hard and trying to get the fitness levels up. We’re probably a small bit behind but we’ll get ourselves right and be ready to go again.
“If you just do the same again [as 2017] you’ll be beaten because every team is improving year on year and the professionalism is gone to a new level. Every year it’s getting better.
“If you don’t keep yourself fresh and up to standards and things like that, you’ll be left behind. I think it’s important to keep building rather than just stay in the same position.”
I t was the Tuesday evening after Galway’s All-Ireland final win that the magnitude of their achievement finally registered with Conor Cooney.