Cyril Farrell: Tipp have made a smoother approach but Galway have avoided major turbulence and can make final landing
Published 13/08/2016 | 02:30
The theory that a team learns more about itself in defeat than victory may not always be true, but it can be helpful - although not essential - to have faced hard questions, provided of course that you come up with the answers.
Galway failed the Leinster final test against Kilkenny but did much better in the All-Ireland quarter-final examination, accumulating high marks against a Clare team that was regarded as serious contenders.
It leaves Galway returning to Croke Park in a good state of mind. So too with Tipperary, who sailed through Munster much more easily than anyone would have envisaged.
And spare me all the talk about the five-week wait for the semi-final being a serious drawback. Ideally a game every few weeks is the best routine but there are other ways to go too.
Munster champions have fared badly in semi-finals in recent times because they weren't good enough, not because of the five-week gap.
It's a handy excuse when a team loses and no more than that. I worked with a Galway team that won five of six semi-finals from 1985-90, having had no game at all since the league in three years and easy wins over the 'B' champions in the others.
Yet, we beat Offaly twice, Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny, all of whom had come through provincial championships.
It's quite possible to have a team spot on off club action and proper training, never mind a three-match Munster programme, which Tipperary enjoyed this year.
Okay, so the final was five weeks ago. So what? Tipp have hardly forgotten how to hurl since then. Besides, how come the five-week wait never seems to bother Kilkenny? Maybe they weren't at their best last Sunday but I doubt if the wait had anything to do with that.
No, Tipperary are coming to Croke Park on full power and with their confidence sky-high after wins over Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
They believe too that they are better than last year, with improvements in most lines. And they may be right.
Michael Cahill is back in favour and doing well in the full-back line; Seamus Kennedy has settled in at right half-back, with Ronan Maher moving to the centre; Michael Breen is enjoying a fine season at midfield; while young John McGrath, who finishes well and distributes well, has brought a new scoring threat alongside Séamus Callanan.
All told, it's a happy position for Michael Ryan. However, he's fully aware that Tipperary are in for much closer scrutiny than they got in Munster, where Cork and Limerick barely raised a gallop and Waterford imploded.
Subsequent events have shown it to be a one-off power failure by Waterford but, from a Tipp viewpoint, the win told them nothing new about themselves, no more than the Cork and Limerick games did.
Last year's Galway-Tipp clash was a great contest and there's no reason to suspect it won't be as good tomorrow. Naturally, both will have looked back on that game in an effort to gain an advantage so I would expect some adjustments.
Callanan tormented Galway last year and is capable of doing it to any opposition in the right circumstances. Everything went his way last year. Galway allowed himself and Pádraig Mannion initially and later John Hanbury to be isolated one-on-one, which suited Callanan perfectly.
Daithí Burke, a gritty competitor who is fast developing into a fine full-back, will be tasked with the up close and personal marking job on Callanan but I'd also expect the corner men to hold their positions, even if the Tipp corner-forwards move outfield.
Galway's counter to that would be to drop all the lines deeper to clog the channels as much as possible, so that if there's to be any empty space, it's close to the Tipperary goal, with attackers pouring through in numbers when opportunities arise.
Galway simply can't have unmanned space close to their goal because even if Burke is well-suited to marking Callanan, he can't be expected to win every ball.
From a Tipp viewpoint, one of the really disappointing aspects of last year's semi-final was that they lost after scoring three goals. That happens rarely enough, especially at this level.
It took nine Galway points to cancel those three goals but they managed it, which shows how productive they can be. They don't always deliver on it but they know it's there.
Pressure-wise, both teams bring their own special brand. The Galway squad forced a change of management last year with a view to winning the All-Ireland, so failing to reach the final would be seen a big setback.
That's a tough assessment when you're preparing to play Tipperary but it's one the players will fully understand because ultimately they are the ones who will feel it most of all if they don't win an All-Ireland.
New manager Micheál Donoghue is a levelled-headed sort who didn't panic after the defeat by Kilkenny and didn't get over-excited after the win over Clare last month.
What happened in the past is of no concern to him. He has got Galway to the semi-final in his first season and is now primed for the next test.
The same goes for Ryan, who is also in his first season as Tipperary manager, having previously working with Liam Sheedy and Eamon O'Shea.
He knows that winning a Munster title isn't enough for the Tipp public, who are craving an All-Ireland win. Still, he has to take it fence by fence and, so far, he hasn't incurred any faults.
It's all set up for a cracking contest. Tipp are favourites on the basis of their Munster title success but once teams reach a semi-final, the approach routes don't count. They are on the same footing, with everything depending on the next performance.
It's easier to make a case for Tipperary on the basis of their Munster win but I feel that Galway are coming right and will step up to a match-winning mark.