THIS time last year, it was unclear whether this Galway team could finally win the All-Ireland.
The drought stretched back 29 years.
Liam MacCarthy had not visited the banks of the Corrib since 1988 but the Tribesmen powered through the Leinster SHC.
Still though, Micheál Donoghue’s men had not been tested after Wexford knocked out Kilkenny in the provincial semi-final.
Galway saw off a struggling Dublin team, 2-28 to 1-17.
They then brushed aside Offaly, who tried to frustrate them by using two sweepers and still conceded 33 points.
The Models, under the guidance of Davy Fitzgerald, stayed with Galway for the first half of the Leinster decider, but the Tribe coasted to a nine-point victory.
Galway were champions for the second time since joining the provincial competition in 2009, but some were still to be convinced.
The deployment of Joe Canning had been an ongoing issue, as was the side’s reliance upon the Portumna star forward.
Stalwarts Ollie Canning and David Collins had come and gone.
But younger players such as Conor Whelan, Joseph and Conor Cooney and Cathal Mannion were beginning to show their worth.
Tipperary were Galway’s opponents in the All-Ireland semi-finals.
This was their test — and the Tribe passed it with flying colours.
Canning fired over the score of the summer at the death to seal a 0-22 to 1-18 win and edge a classic.
That was the turning point, the moment it sank in that this team meant business.
Donoghue’s men went on and finished the job against Waterford last September and Galway’s nerve was no longer an issue.
Bar keeper Colm Callanan — who picked up a quad and then a calf injury — none of the team that sealed glory has had any major setbacks.
Johnny Glynn is back on these shores on a full-time basis — after commuting from New York last summer — while Cathal Mannion has improved immeasurably.
Both men caused mayhem against Kilkenny in Sunday’s Leinster final replay in Thurles.
Glynn scored 1-1 and proved a hugely-capable ball-winner, while Mannion struck six points from play in a sublime performance.
The Tribe have momentum, thanks to an 11-game unbeaten Championship run.
And the Kilkenny question has been put to bed.
Galway have played the Cats three times in this year’s competition — drawing the Leinster final on July 1 and beating Brian Cody’s men before and after it.
They sealed a 1-22 to 2-11 win in the third round-robin game in Salthill.
On Sunday, they recorded a 1-28 to 3-15 victory.
The Cats roared back in the second half in Thurles.
From 12 points down at one stage, they got to within one.
Previous Galway teams would have crumbled — but not this side.
A flurry of points put paid to any hopes of a Kilkenny victory.
The men from the west are two games away from retaining the All-Ireland — of repeating the feat of the class of 1988.
Conor Hayes, the late Tony Keady, Gerry McInerney, Pete Finnerty, Joe Cooney, Mick McGrath — hurling legends.
Canning, Mannion, Glynn, Whelan, David Burke and Johnny Coen could soon add their names to that list.
Boss Donoghue has put together an excellent back-room team.
There was a question of complacency in the draw with Kilkenny at Croke Park but any doubts were firmly eradicated in Sunday’s rematch.
Munster heavyweights Tipperary and Waterford are out of the Championship.
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Two more from Limerick, Kilkenny, Clare and Wexford will join them on the sidelines this weekend after the quarter-finals are played.
The All-Ireland is there for the Tribesmen.
Galway took the throne last year and you just cannot see them being unseated in 2018.