Kilkenny wary of history against erratic Tribesmen
Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30
Galway's capacity to deliver a stunning performance when least expected is the biggest threat to Kilkenny in next Sunday's Leinster hurling semi-final in Tullamore.
That's the unmistakable evidence from their clashes with Kilkenny during Brian Cody's 16 seasons as manager, a period in which Galway have beaten them more often than any other county.
Unlike Cork and Tipperary, both of whom beat Kilkenny in All-Ireland finals, Galway failed on the big day, losing a replay in 2012, but they still lead the other pair in championship and league wins over hurling's biggest beasts since Cody took charge for the 1999 season.
Galway have beaten Kilkenny nine times since then, compared to seven wins each for Cork and Tipperary.
Waterford, Wexford, Clare and Dublin are the only other counties to have beaten Kilkenny in that period.
Among those who have failed are Limerick, who managed a draw in one league game, and Offaly, who have lost 13 times to Kilkenny, including this year's Leinster semi-final, when they were demolished in Nowlan Park.
Galway have had three championship wins over Kilkenny in the last 13 years, all coming rather expectedly. And with Kilkenny 2/5 to beat the Tribesmen (9/4) on Sunday, the form book is pointing firmly against Anthony Cunningham's erratic adventures.
However, that will be of concern to Kilkenny, as experience warns them that it's at times like this they are at their most vulnerable against Galway.
In 2001, Kilkenny, the reigning All-Ireland champions, whizzed through a trouble-free Leinster championship and lined up against a Galway side that hadn't looked especially impressive in their only championship outing – a routine quarter-final win over Derry.
However, despite having to play with 14 men for all of the second half after corner-back, Gregory Kennedy was sent off before half-time, Galway beat Kilkenny more easily than the 2-15 to 1-13 scoreline suggested.
Four years later, Galway stunned them again in the All-Ireland semi-final, a year after losing to Kilkenny by 19 points in a qualifier tie.
It took seven years for Galway's next successful ambush in the championship when they beat Kilkenny by 10 points in the Leinster final after winning the first half by 14 points.
Yet again, it was a bolt from the blue as Galway had conceded a total of 7-27 against Westmeath and Offaly in their previous two games, yet they restricted the vaunted Kilkenny attack to 0-5 in the first 40 minutes. Galway lost their last three league games to Kilkenny over the past 14 months, including two this year by three and four point margins respectively.
The semi-final performance in the Gaelic grounds was solid enough, but Galway's subsequent difficulty in sorting out the puzzle presented by Laois in the Leinster quarter-final has raised major doubts about where exactly the western raiders stand.
Usually, that would be regarded as helpful by the opposition, but Kilkenny will be concerned that given their erratic form pattern over many seasons, Galway could be ready to deliver an explosive performance.
Cody will be leading Kilkenny for the 188th time in league and championship, during which they won 144, lost 35 and drew eight games.
It leaves them with a 79pc success rate, an astonishing yield over such a long period.
Who has done the best against Cats in the Cody era?
Galway have had most wins, followed by Cork and Tipperary.
Kilkenny have lost only eight championship games in that period – three to Galway (2001, '05, '12), two to Cork (2004, '13), one each to Tipperary (2010), Dublin (2013) and Wexford (2004).