Kevin Walsh’s Galway should ease way into Connacht semi-final

Leitrim will look to limit damage with half of team’s defence made up of debutants

Leitrim are long-odds here. It's been a difficult year for new manager Shane Ward, who has had to cope with multiple withdrawals from the panel, including the county's best-known player and former captain Emlyn Mulligan. After a worthy league campaign, they come into this with home advantage but a lot of inexperience, with five newcomers named in the team.

It’s assumed that Ward will set things up reasonably defensively in order to keep the match as competitive as possible for as long as possible.

Galway aren’t exactly on fire themselves but they already have the advantage of one championship match under their belts and if it was a straightforward (16-point) win over New York, it gave the team a run-out and helped to fine-tune some returning players.

Trouble starts

Kevin Walsh’s side looks strong in the front eight. Fiontan Ó Curraoin and Paul Conroy will be a formidable centrefield and this could be where Leitrim’s trouble starts. If Galway get an early grip here against Darren Sweeney and

Shane Moran

and crank up a decent supply line, they have the forwards to wreak havoc but Leitrim have good auxiliaries available and will compete.

Shane Walsh and Damien Comer were the wrecking balls in the Bronx and Michael Lundy – so impressive against Kerry last year and during Corofin’s All-Ireland-winning campaign – is back to supplement them so Leitrim will need to be careful about how much ball and space the opposing forwards get.

Half the Leitrim defence is made up of debutants, Matthew Murphy and Niall Woods in the corners and Thomas Mulvey at wing back, which is a tall order given the quality of the direct opponents.

Galway's defence isn't as impressive and they could be under pressure from big, physical ball winners like Donal Wrynn and James McGrail, as well as the shooting of Kevin Conlan.

There’s plenty of enthusiasm in Leitrm and the mood seems upbeat but the reality is that it’s hard to see beyond the visitors.

The Lowdown

Last meeting: 2008 Connacht semi-final, Pearse Stadium, Galway 2-14, Leitrim 1-13. Galway went on to win Connacht and play a memorable All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry in a deluge in Croke Park. Odds: Galway 1/16, Tyrone 8/1 and 22/1 the draw. Injuries: Tom Flynn is still coming back from an ankle injury sustained in March. He's not starting but is fit again and came on as a replacement for Paul Conroy in New York. Suspension: None. Just the ticket: Stand: Adult €25, juvenile €5. Terrace: Adult €20, juvenile €5. Verdict: Galway to win. LEITRIM: Cathal McCrann; Mathew Murphy, Ronan Gallagher, Niall Woods; Seán McWeeney (captain), Gary Reynolds, Thomas Mulvey; Darren Sweeney, Shane Moran; Danny Beck, Donal Wrynn, Kevin Conlan; Ronan Kennedy, James McGrail, Fergal Clancy. GALWAY: Brian O'Donoghue; Johnny Duane, Finian Hanley, Cathal Sweeney; Liam Silke, Gary O'Donnell, Sean Denvir; Fiontan O Curraoin, Paul Conroy (captain); Gary Sice, Shane Walsh, Micheal Lundy; Peadar O Griofa, Damien Comer, Danny Cummins. Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times