Cyril Farrell: Galway good for an upset if they can get in their groove
Published 15/08/2015 | 02:30
The hurling championship needs a rip-roaring contest and we could be about to get it tomorrow.
It hasn't, by any means, been a disappointing campaign, but neither has it delivered any epic contests that will be talked about in years to come.
That can happen some times, but with two games remaining there's still every chance that one or the other - maybe even both - will make a big deposit in the memory bank.
Galway and Tipperary certainly possess the capabilities to serve up a cracker. Tipperary have been running Kilkenny close for All-Ireland favouritism all year, while Galway's much-improved display against Cork last month has re-awakened hopes that something special is unfolding.
Judgement should be reserved on that for the time being as it wouldn't be the first time that Galway sparkled one day and bombed the next.
I don't think that will happen tomorrow, but neither should supporters get ahead of themselves. Anthony Cunningham and the players certainly won't as they know just how difficult it will be to dislodge Tipperary.
But then, Tipperary will have their concerns too. I have no doubt they would have preferred if Cork had beaten Galway in the quarter-final on the basis that would have a clearer idea about what to expect against the Leeside boys.
Galway, on the other hand, are far more unpredictable. When they hit a flat day, they don't improvise very well to minimise the damage, but when they press the right buttons, then sparks fly.
Tomorrow's game essentially comes down to this: which defence will do the better job against very talented opposition forwards?
That might sound like the case in every game but it's more pronounced in this instance because there are question marks against both defences, while the respective attacks are dotted with potential match-winners.
Galway hit 2-28 against Cork and shot 23 wides, a total of 53 strikes at goal. Add in some other attacking chances where a player opted to pass rather than shoot and the total probably comes to over 60. A team doesn't lose many games when they create that many openings.
Tipperary won their two Munster games by contrasting methods, skinning Limerick in the final quarter and finishing on 4-23, before delivering a really controlled - at times even conservative - effort against Waterford in the Munster final.
Galway won't set up as defensively as Waterford and neither will Tipperary so you can expect the scores to come thick and fast tomorrow.
It's not that the sides will line out in a traditional 14 v 14 outfield. Both will provide some reinforcements for the defence from further up, but it won't be anything like as marked as the way Waterford go about it.
Tipperary have done well by dropping Pádraic Maher back in front of the 'D', where he has got on to a lot of ball and used it intelligently.
I'd expect Galway to counter that by having someone in Maher's vicinity all the time, so that he's not allowed to be the spare man. That worked for Galway against Mark Ellis in the quarter-final.
Instead of trying to play around him, they attacked him down the middle and created chances on the sides, which Cathal Mannion, in particular, exploited. And if Joe Canning didn't have one of those rare days when his radar was off, he would have had 0-10 from open play.
As for Johnny Glynn, he hit a day when nearly everything went right. It didn't happen by accident, of course. He worked tirelessly to ensure that it did.
Cork made it that bit easier for him by challenging him in the air all the time, not very successfully it must be said. I'd expect Tipperary, who struggled against him for a long time in last year's qualifier clash, to play cuter, working to get the ball to ground, where it's 50-50, unlike in the air when Glynn puts up the big paw.
If the Galway attack is capable of running in a big score against most defences, the same applies to Tipperary. Seamus Callanan hit Galway for 3-1 from open play last year, with 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer on 0-6 and Noel McGrath on 0-5.
I have long been an admirer of Callanan, even when some in his own county were not.
He'll skin opposition if he gets the chances and even on a day when he's stuck in traffic, as happened against Waterford in the Munster final, he still attracted enough attention to take two players with him, leaving more room for Bubbles and co. I would expect Padraig Mannion to be despatched on Callanan duty, with Johnny Coen on O'Dwyer.
Tipperary are favourites, based on their greater consistency, but if Galway start well, get their game right and impose themselves physically, they can show that the Cork game wasn't a one-off.