Galway can win if they dampen dynamic duo of Reid and Hogan
Tribesmen on a given day are capable of being not just good but great
Kilkenny’s TJ Reid. Maybe it’s a bit sensational to write that Reid is unmarkable at present yet it’s not an outrageous statement. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
As far as I am aware Sunday’s game will be their fifth game in Croke Park this year. So no shortage of experience there either.
For Kilkenny, of course, it’s almost a home game in a season which has the familiarity of all the recent seasons about it .
But what needs to be different this time so the underdog might make that breakthrough they have threatened on a number of occasions since 1988?
Well, both managers and sets of players know each other fairly well. The Kilkenny players have that confidence that has been hard-earned over the past decade. When the going gets tough they have that certitude of champions which, psychologically, helps to push them on. They have come out of tight scrapes before and if a second day is necessary they know how to win that as well.
There shouldn’t be any reason why their Sunday morning build-up won’t all happen without a glitch.
However, they know that Galway on a given day are capable of being not just good but great. They have done it sparingly,though, over the past 30 years. Yet they did it as recently as 2012, when in the Leinster final they ambushed Kilkenny and greatly surprised the watching public.
What a rare event to hold Kilkenny scoreless for the first 20 minutes of a championship game and go in at the half-time break with a 2-12 to 0-4 scoreline in your team’s favour.
Yet Kilkenny collected the All Ireland medals again that year.
Over the past decade we have been presented with a lot of evidence as to how Brian Cody picks teams. It’s all about form on the training ground and identifying weaknesses in the opposition.
We had copybook space creation and use by Tipperary in the semi-final and a full forward scoring three goals . We have a centre-back for Galway that can be exposed. So Cody, we think, will target the three and six positions in this particular game which probably means TJ Reid will play at 14 and Richie Hogan will play at 11 and he with a licence to roam. We’ll see.
Anthony Cunningham and the whole hurling world is aware of the full-back line frailties that were so evident against Tipperary. He also knows that in Pádraic Mannion he has a very capable defender but probably as a corner back. He is also aware that he may have to consider using the extra defender, aka the sweeper, but in doing that he realises he is in robbing Peter to pay Paul territory.
Yet the concession of three goals isn’t ideal and obviously needs attention. So what do they do or how should they set up?
Is there an out-and-out man-marker on their panel who might mind TJ Reid for the game? And is there also an out-and-out man-marker who can keep Richie Hogan to a low number of scores?
So should they use a sweeper or should they play their half-forward line around the middle of the field in an effort to limit the opposition’s potential to set up their forwards?
We can be fairly sure that Kilkenny will set up their team traditionally. We can be more than sure that they will play with the intensity that has become one of the hallmarks of the BC era. There is no doubting that, but the big question is will Galway match that intensity because if they do they have every chance of winning.
They have a freshness about them that an injection of quality youth brings. That quality mightn’t have been that evident in their under-21 semi-final against Limerick but it was certainly evident in Croke Park against Tipperary. They have aerial ability which has been another of Kilkenny many strengths over the past decade. They showed a resilience (more than once) against Tipperary that was admirable.
But they don’t have Hogan or Reid, and while acknowledging that it is an oversimplification to think that if they hold them they will win the game, one can be fairly sure that if they don’t hold them they won’t win the game.
Maybe it’s a bit sensational to write that Reid is unmarkable at present yet it’s not an outrageous statement . In my opinion he is the key player in Kilkenny’s drive to add another title to the 35 they already hold.
In my opinion however Galway work it they need to man-mark Hogan and Reid. If they have reasonable success in those onerous tasks their chance of victory is greater.
Kilkenny are the fancy of the bookies, and we know the noise money makes, but this year Galway have a half dozen championship games played and that’s a lot of experience for the players and a lot of hours for the management to make judgement calls.
So I’ll state the obvious and say it will be won on the day by the team that scores the most. However, I’ll go against the wisdom of the masses and say that Galway have a more potent six to eight up front, and if the majority of the many variables go their way they might just about shade it.