John Allen: Galway look ready to unleash big display
Three championship games should have the Tribesmen in ideal shape to shock Kilkenny
The return of Colm Galvin, Brendan Bugler and Conor McGrath should help Clare prove too strong for Offaly. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Saturday July 4th,Independence Day in the United States will be a noteworthy day for a number of counties in this year’s championship. Sunday the 5th will also be a defining day for another.
The losers’ seasons will finish, the dreams shelved for another year and with probably some management fallout as well.
Will we have an unexpected result in any of those games? I’m fairly sure that outside of the management and players themselves not too many people gave Sligo, Westmeath or Wexford footballers much of a chance in their respective football games recently.
What certainties have we tomorrow ? I’d have to say I expect Dublin to defeat Laois even though Laois, apparently, won’t fear playing Dublin. Dublin, of course, won’t fear playing against Laois either.
Dublin over the past number of championships have been quite defensive in their set-up. Anthony Daly, with his defender’s mindset, tended to set up his team with a view to keeping it tight at the back and taking his chance on scoring enough with the scoring opportunities they created.
That being said, Dublin have taken a number of double-digit beatings in that same period. They have generally been more successful in low- scoring games. The fundamental principle seemed to be to concede less rather than score more.
Ger Cunningham and his management took a chance in setting up traditionally against Galway and were blown away in the first quarter, never to recover. Galway’s scoring feat in that period, though, was of the once in a wonder variety. Dublin, tomorrow, have a chance to start the confidence building again.
Laois come into the game in a similar state of mind. They, after an encouraging enough opening period against Galway, were well beaten before the half -time whistle and looked for long periods in the second half like a team who just weren’t good enough for the top grade.
I don’t envisage anything other than a Dublin victory in this one. But maybe that’s because I know more about Dublin than I do about Laois. Not a very scientific form of analysis.
Offaly travel to Clare with supporter expectation quite low. Clare, in contrast, have strengthened their hand. A returning trinity might do much to resurrect their season. Colm Galvin’s return from the US is a major plus as is Conor McGrath’s return from injury and Brendan Bugler’s return from suspension. These are three very capable and important players.
I was at the corresponding game in Cusack Park last year when Wexford were the visitors. Their small following that day reflected the presumption that their chance of winning was slim at best. As we know it took two games but the underdog won. Can we make a case for Offaly ?
Well I suppose their league form was a bit indifferent and their performance against Laois a few weeks ago left a lot to be desired.
In Shane Dooley, Dan Currams, Brian Carroll and Joe Bergin they have forwards who have the potential to be excellent but against Laois’s sweeper system their found it difficult to create space or goal chances. Offaly will hardly be good enough against a Clare team at home with their season at stake.
The game we expect to be the most difficult to call will be in the Wexford fortress of Innovate Park. Wexford’s hurling was ponderous against Kilkenny. That speed that was evident in their games against Clare last year just wasn’t there. Their under-21 team was equally lethargic in the first half of their game against Offaly last week.
But we saw those seniors show great heart and resolve last year and surely all of those qualities are still within the group. However the speed of their hurling needs to improve. Playing at home has to be worth something to them.
We know Cork’s hurling will be smart and quick but like Wexford their confidence has to be brittle enough given their capitulation in the second half of the championship match against Waterford and their poor performance in the league final.
But the Cork psyche will not entertain losing to Wexford. The Cork followers will also be slow enough to accept a loss. But the same followers also know this game is far from a foregone conclusion. Cork’s form has been inconsistent throughout the season. They certainly have some quick forwards but the inability of forwards to create space in the two games against Waterford has been an issue that neither management or players has dealt with efficiently. Wexford, obviously, know this. I expect a Cork victory but only just.
Limerick who play on Sunday were very impressive for the opening quarter of the second half against Tipperary. They certainly weren’t as bad as the final scoreline suggested. They will expect to beat Westmeath. I saw Westmeath playing twice this year. If Niall O Brien is given enough ball they have a chance but the Limerick I know have too much potential and strength in depth.
The Leinster final on Sunday could be a cracker. Galway have the advantage of having played three championship games and Anthony Cunningham has to have a fair idea who his best in-form 20 are and in what order he’s going to start them not that that makes much of a difference in the 2015 version of hurling. Kilkenny were very impressive in their massacre of Wexford and have the confidence, experience and manager to always be reckoned with. I think though they might be second this time.