Friday 9 December 2016

Balance swings towards Tipp in another high-scoring shoot-out

Published 13/08/2016 | 02:30

Daithi Burke in action against TJ Reid of Kilkenny last year. Photo: Sportsfile
Daithi Burke in action against TJ Reid of Kilkenny last year. Photo: Sportsfile

A surprising element of this clash is that Tipperary are such overwhelming favourites at 1/2, with Galway at 2/1.

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That reflects the mood among those who joust with the bookmaking fraternity, but it's difficult to gauge the source of such soaring confidence in Tipperary.

Does it rest in their ruthless demolition of Waterford in the Munster final? Is it a belief that after losing to Galway in such dramatic circumstances last August, Tipperary will be driven by an unmatchable determination?

Could it be the influence of tradition and the view that, all things being fairly equal, Tipperary will beat Galway? After all, don't they lead 20-7 from the previous 27 championship clashes?

Actually, that's a misleading stat since it embraces the whole of championship history, much of which had Galway nowhere near the top table.

The last 30 years tell a much-changed story, with the 12 All-Ireland Galway-Tipp meetings standing at 6-6.

The real reason why Tipperary are so well fancied may be down to Galway's unequal relationship with Kilkenny and the perception it generates.

And since they have played them most years since joining Leinster in 2009, Galway's failure - with the exception of the 2012 Leinster final - to beat Kilkenny throws a shadow across the county.

Yet, the reality is that they have beaten Kilkenny three times since the turn of the Millennium, whereas Tipp have managed it only once in the 2010 All-Ireland final.

Still, the Kilkenny question hangs over Galway, especially after Waterford's heroically close call against the champions last Sunday.

Galway's second-half fade-out against Kilkenny in the Leinster final - they were out-scored by 1-16 to 0-9 - raised suspicions that they had not advanced from last year when they lost the second half of the All-Ireland final by 0-14 to 1-4.

Nonetheless, Galway were in the final because they had beaten Tipp, having survived a hat-trick by Séamus Callanan to pull off the rare achievement of winning despite conceding three goals and scoring none.

But then Galway hit 0-26, three weeks after hitting Cork for 2-28. It's that degree of scoring fluency which Galway can reach on their better days that will leave their supporters taking a fairly confident trip east tomorrow morning.

Galway certainly looked to have rediscovered equilibrium during the recent win over Clare, although it must be asked how good are the Banner?

Since winning the 2013 All-Ireland - and there are question marks over the quality of that campaign - Clare have done little of substance in the championship, a reality that must be taken into account when assessing Galway.

Clare's cluttered systems yielded little against the Galway defence, where Daithí Burke was superb at full-back.

He will be an even more important figure tomorrow when he takes on Callanan, who scored a total of 6-17 (6-5 from open play) against Galway in their last two championship clashes.

In addition, much of the 0-12 he hit from placed balls arose from frees he had earned.

Burke will be placed on Callanan duty tomorrow, with tight support from elsewhere as Galway seek to block the approach routes to Colm Callanan's goal. For while they won last year, they know that conceding three goals ends in defeat more often than not.

Tipperary's locks weren't exactly pick-proof last year either, conceding 26 points - 13 in either half. The defence looks more secure this season, with Ronan Maher solidifying the centre at No 6 and Séamus Kennedy improving all the time on his right.

Of course, Maher, who is still two months short of his 21st birthday, can expect a much tougher test tomorrow than he got in Munster.

About the only thing that can be predicted with any degree of confidence is that it will be a high-scoring game. That's based on the last three meetings which produced a total of 16-113, in a 3-19 to 2-19 average in Tipp's favour. That could be about right again.

Irish Independent

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