It could be a nightmare in the Park for Galway


THERE WAS a time when Galway created a frisson before matches against Kilkenny. The unexpected wins in 2001 and ’05 may have made Kilkenny wary although there were extenuating circumstances in the latter and Galway made a fight of it in 2007 and ’09 but there is no reason to expect anything except a 14th GAA Leinster hurling title in 15 years for the All-Ireland champions tomorrow.

Even taking into account the injury to JJ Delaney, who is replaced by the multi decorated Noel Hickey, the semi-final win against an evaporating Dublin simply showcased the strength of their reserves.

Galway had to take off Joe Canning in the recent challenge against Waterford but he is expected to be fit and ready and his presence is a sine qua non to any sort of competitive display.

The most recent encounter was most discouraging, a 25-point defeat in the league at Nowlan Park. Perhaps alarmingly two thirds of the players in action that day on both sides are listed again for tomorrow. Galway certainly aren’t as bad as that indicated but how much of that differential can reasonably be bridged?

Kilkenny on the other hand are so practised that players slot into the system with minimum disruption. They carried a replacement centrefield against Dublin and their debutants stepped in without fuss.

The quality of the hurling and inter-play for the goals, particularly TJ Reid’s, was exceptional and Galway need to register some substantial improvement here.

David Collins returns from injury to the Galway full-back line, as Anthony Cunningham and his management try to address the sieve-like permeability of their defence against Offaly and Westmeath, who managed a total of seven goals against them in the two provincial matches to date.

Added to that what Richie Power and Henry Shefflin can bring must be a nightmare for the challengers, who need Joe Canning to give his most sustained performance against Kilkenny if they are to exert adequate pressure at the other end.

Previously:This is their third meeting during Galway’s four years in Leinster and overall their ninth in 13 championships. Galway haven’t won since 2005 but Kilkenny’s recent wins have been restrained.

You bet:On a weekend of one-way journeys, the All-Ireland champions are 1/7 with Galway 11/2 to win a first Leinster title. The draw is 16/1.

Just the ticket: Stand tickets €35 (no concessions in the Hogan), Davin €20. Refund (€15) for OAPs and students in Cusack Stand. Juveniles (16 and under) €5 (limited to two per accompanying adult).

Crystal gazing: There’s nothing in what an evolving Galway have done so far in league and championship to suggest that they can make an impact here.

KILKENNY: D Herity; P Murphy, N Hickey, J Tyrrell; T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle; C Buckley, P Hogan; H Shefflin, TJ Reid, E Larkin; C Fennelly, R Power, R Hogan.

GALWAY: J Skehill; D Collins, K Hynes, F Moore; N Donoghue, T Regan, J Coen; I Tannian, A Smyth; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; C Cooney, J Canning, D Hayes.

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

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