Galway to push on and exploit Clare’s shortcomings

All Ireland hurling semi-final throws-in at Croke Park at 5pm (Live, RTÉ2 and Sky Arena)

Can Clare contain Galway’s Joe Canning? Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Can Clare contain Galway’s Joe Canning? Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

The opening match of the first All-Ireland semi-final weekend to take place under the revised calendar feels a little like the undercard. With a big crowd expected tomorrow, the appeal of this is more selective.

This is partly because Galway were thunderously good in defeating Kilkenny in the Leinster final replay and partly because Clare betrayed signs of old failings in the Munster final and didn’t quite lay them to rest in the quarter-final defeat of Wexford. Against that Clare have at last got back to Croke Park for this first time since the All-Ireland win in 2013, a return that had taken on the character of a crusade for the team.

But the mundane reality is that they haven’t been back because they hadn’t played well enough and it may be fanciful to expect the stadium to inspire them to the required extent.

A couple of them were actually here last year and the club final against Cuala wasn’t a happy occasion for either the bottled-up Tony Kelly or Jack Browne, chasing Con O’Callaghan.

 Viewed as a contest, some of Clare’s shortcomings against Wexford would be costly on this occasion. The unease, to put it no more strongly, when some high ball was dropped in on Lee Chin and Conor McDonald would be amplified with Jonathan Glynn as the receiver.

Expected to press

Wexford’s conservative tactics with a two-up full-forward line gave Clare a spare man at the back whereas Galway can be expected to press, one-on-one.

Wexford also hit a litany of wides when they had possession in the second half whereas the champions rained fire on Kilkenny.

Clare will legitimately feel that if Galway get as sloppy as they did for periods in the Leinster replay, that’s something that can be exploited but John Conlon who maintained his fine season even in the face of a determined tussle with Liam Ryan, will need to do at least as much against Daithi Burke.

Galway won’t want to sacrifice structure by tasking Gearóid McInerney with following Tony Kelly, whose hot scoring bursts need to be curtailed but equally how well can Clare handle Joe Canning’s influence on the other 40? Maybe the champions will fall back from where they were in Thurles but otherwise they’re on the way to successive finals for the first time in 28 years.

Verdict: Galway

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