Subscriber OnlyGaelic Games

Joe Canning: Galway look a bit lost - can they find themselves again before it’s too late?

Despite alarming performance against Wexford, Galway still have time to turn things around, but for Cork time is running out fast

Wexford's Liam Ryan and Galway's Conor Cooney shake hands after their SHC round 3 match at Wexford Park on May 4th. Photograph: Leah Scholes/Inpho

The way the hurling championship is structured, teams can get themselves into a hole with very little time to get out of it. Before last weekend’s games Wexford and Tipperary were in that position, trying to get their heads around an unacceptable performance the previous week and somehow find a way to stay alive in the championship. Galway are there now.

I didn’t see that performance coming against Wexford. When you look back there were warning signs in the Kilkenny game a week before, but I think everyone assumed they would fix whatever issues were highlighted in that game and get better. That wasn’t the case.

From a Galway point of view, the performance against Wexford was alarming. I’ve said this before, but I still don’t know how Galway are trying to play. I don’t see a pattern. I can’t read how they’re going to set up from one game to the next.

When teams play against Limerick everybody knows what they’re up against. They might not be able to do much about it, but with Limerick everyone can see that there is a system and a structure in place. With Galway, there is none of that.


I have to be honest and say I don’t see any togetherness. I don’t see any real direction. It’s disjointed. Too much of what they’re doing is individualistic. At the moment I’m finding it hard to see a team that can challenge for the All-Ireland. It’s just very frustrating from a Galway point of view.

If you look back over the last couple of years, Galway have lost the games they really needed to win: Leinster finals, All-Ireland semi-finals. When you look at the All-Ireland quarter-finals they won, it was as much to do with Tipperary and Cork not performing as anything Galway did.

I think when other teams look at Galway now their attitude is: if we outwork them we’ll beat them. It must be very hard for Henry Shefflin to swallow that because hard work was the hallmark of his performances when he was playing. He was a brilliant hurler who worked tirelessly for the team.

Wexford's Jack O'Connor and Cian Byrne tackle Daithí Burke of Galway at Wexford Park on May 4th. Photograph: Leah Scholes/Inpho

Late in the game last Saturday there was one situation where a Galway player was running towards his own goal, with his back to the ball, and a Wexford player ran out past him to gather possession and put it over the bar. Galway had an extra man at the time and you’re thinking the only player who really wanted the ball in that situation was the Wexford forward, who was outnumbered at that end of the field. From a Galway point of view, where was the communication? Where was the desire?

I’m on the outside looking in and I remember when I was playing I hated people making judgments about what was going on inside the four walls of our dressing room, or on the training ground, when all they could see were the matches. I also understand, though, that you can’t escape the judgments people make about you on match day. Everything you do in training must lead to a performance.

Wexford keep their summer alive as they trim Galway in comprehensive fashionOpens in new window ]

At the moment, Galway look confused. Eamon O’Shea was a great appointment and when he was involved with Tipperary over the years you associated their forward lines with great use of the ball and great use of space. The Kilkenny teams that Shefflin played on under Brian Cody had a different approach and were far more direct.

Are Galway trying to marry those two approaches? Is that possible? O’Shea has only been involved since the start of the year and – with the weather, and everything else – he has only had a couple of months to really work stuff out on the training ground. It probably is going to take longer than that to get his ideas across to the players and for all that to bed down.

But in the meantime Galway look lost. I wonder if they know their best 15. Gearóid McInerney didn’t get any look in during the league, or in the Kilkenny game, but he started last Saturday. David Burke started against Kilkenny and didn’t play too badly; last Saturday, when they were in trouble, he didn’t get a minute off the bench.

Galway’s Cianan Fahy and Fintan Burke block a shot from Rory O'Connor of Wexford. Photograph: Leah Scholes/Inpho

Late in the game, when Galway were trying to chase down Wexford’s lead, Conor Cooney ended up in the backs. I never saw him play there before. Johnny Glynn came on at the edge of the square at a time in the game when Galway couldn’t win a puck-out. Why didn’t they put him at wing forward, where he has played a lot of hurling, just to try to win some primary possession?

They still have time to turn the season around. If they beat Antrim and Dublin there’s every chance they will still end up in a Leinster final, depending on other results. But stumbling into a Leinster final against Kilkenny won’t be much good unless they sort out the issues that killed them in Wexford Park.

Clare take Cork’s best shot but come out smiling in thrilling Munster clashOpens in new window ]

Time is running out for Cork. If they lose against Limerick on Saturday night their season is over. Can they do it? I can’t see it. They were better against Clare than they had been against Waterford but when the game was there to be won they still couldn’t get over the line.

Cork will need to run at Limerick and, to have any chance, they will need to score goals – which is easier said than done. Cork have been shipping big scores, not just this season, but last year as well. Against Limerick, though, they can’t afford to sit off. They will have to take a risk on winning a high-scoring game.

If they bring players back, they’re not going to have enough of a threat at the other end and Limerick will just pick them off. The problem for Cork is that I don’t think they have players in their full-back line who can survive against Limerick without extra protection.

It’s very early in the year for a do-or-die game but that’s where Cork find themselves now. They’ll need to come with something that we haven’t seen yet.