Séamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett feels momentum will give Galway edge
Opponents Tipperary have been waiting for five weeks without playing a championship game
Loais manager Séamus Plunkett believes Galway will benefit from their recent busy schedule as they prepare to face Tipperary in their All-Ireland hurling qualifier game this weekend.
After so many long and wasted years without a testing schedule the Galway hurlers now have their wish. A third championship match in three weeks, against another top team, with the promise of no way back.
It may not be exactly what they wished for, but if Saturday’s All-Ireland qualifier against Tipperary doesn’t raise their pulse again, coming as it does so soon after their draw and replay against Kilkenny, then their season will be dead – and possibly some Galway careers too, on the sideline and the field.
Manager Anthony Cunningham, presumably, won’t have turned a single thought towards Tipperary until around nine o’clock last Saturday evening, when Kilkenny finally finished off Galway’s interest in the Leinster championship: the seven-day turnaround means he won’t have had much time to think about Tipperary before Saturday’s showdown in Thurles, either, and therein lies part of the challenge.
Nothing beats match practice. Challenge games count for nothing. Momentum is the greatest propellant of all. But how exactly will Galway handle the prospect of playing a third championship game in as many weeks, especially given their opposition have been waiting quietly for five weeks now?
Séamus “Cheddar” Plunkett is perfectly qualified to answer. His Laois team recently played five championship matches over successive Sundays, between May 4th and June 1st, against Westmeath, Carlow, London, Antrim, and then Galway – losing out there by just two points, 1-22 to 0-23. Now, after making their championship exit against Waterford last Saturday evening, Plunkett sees several pros and cons in such a testing schedule.
“We also had a Leinster under-21 championship match thrown in as well, the week of the Galway match,” he recalls. “And quite a few of our players were involved in that too. So if you take our situation, where we played five games over successive weekends, there is very little time to prepare anything for the following Sunday.
‘Main challenge’“That includes looking at the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. Although that’s the challenge for the management more than players. And if you feel there is a weakness in your own game, or game plan, there isn’t much time to fully address that. But the main challenge is trying to stay fresh, and manage the training to ensure that. Not just to stay physically fresh, but also psychologically fresh. Obviously you want to avoid injuries as much as possible, because they can start mounting once players are involved in so many games like that.
“There are upsides as well. Look at Dublin last summer. They went on a winning run, starting with the replay win over Wexford, and took that momentum all the way to a Leinster title. Games in quick succession like that can sometimes help propel yourself along.”
Tipperary won’t have played in five weeks, since their Munster semi-final defeat to Limerick on June 1st. Lose, and their season is over. Both teams are also coming off a defeat, and whatever psychological baggage comes with that, yet Plunkett believes Galway can take plenty of encouragement from their performances against Kilkenny.
“Based on both of Galway’s games, I felt they were right with Kilkenny, despite the score at the end of the replay. So there shouldn’t be any problem with their physical conditioning. It’s just about getting back into the zone to deliver a winning performance. I feel Anthony Cunningham will know that, and his team did deliver two good performances, and that the Galway crowd are still behind them.
“Galway do have the players, serious talent, one of most skilled hurlers we’ll see in our lifetime (in Joe Canning), and they are a good, physical team. It depends on their mood, really. In this instance, the momentum of playing those games is now with Galway, and they will have the sharpness over Tipp, and even though it’s very difficult to beat Tipp in Thurles, I would feel Galway have the advantage.
“It has to be said as well that Tipp haven’t played for five weeks now, and that’s possibly a greater disadvantage. In some ways it’s also better that Galway are playing a top team like Tipp.
“It doesn’t give anyone the chance to relax about it. I think that’s easier than say if they were coming out against a lesser team.
“I think most managers will tell you that the ideal turnaround in games is two weeks, or even three. That allows you time to give players a couple of days off, then get back into some hard training, and then ease off again.”