Tipperary's stability could be the tie-breaker against erratic Galway
Published 15/08/2015 | 02:30
They started the season as All-Ireland favourites and nothing has changed.
Kilkenny have already booked a place in the final and, by 5.30 tomorrow, it's highly probable that Tipperary will have joined them for a sixth September summit in seven seasons.
Only Galway can prevent it happening and while there's a new sweep of confidence in the county that something special is about to unfold, the reality may be different.
Galway have done little over the last two seasons to suggest that they have the consistency required to win the All-Ireland title. To end the 27-year drought, they will have had to beat Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny in succession - truly the tallest of tall orders.
Galway have already completed the first leg of the formidable treble, beating Cork so comprehensively in the quarter-final that it inevitably sparked claims that something different is stirring in maroon-and-white land this year.
Perhaps, but after so many false dawns over the years, the sceptical wing of the Galway support will need more convincing than what was provided by a win over an under-performing Cork outfit.
Three weeks earlier, Kilkenny hurled Galway into submission from a safe distance in the Leinster final, never pulling far enough ahead for a comprehensive win, but rarely having Galway close enough to be really worried.
As with Waterford last Sunday, Kilkenny were able to inject bursts of power into their game at various stages which Galway didn't match.
Former Galway captain, Conor Hayes commented afterwards that he was disappointed at the response from Anthony Cunningham's side when they scored a goal either side of half-time.
"It should have lifted them, but it didn't," said Hayes.
Now, one game later, there's a growing view that a really good performance (v Cork) has ironed out the many kinks that undermined Galway on so many big days in the past.
Of course, that may be the case - especially with forwards of the calibre of Joe Canning, Johnny Glynn and Cathal Mannion, who scored 1-14 between them against Cork, offering endless possibilities - but the wider hurling public will remain doubtful until it actually happens.
Apart from the awesome momentum generated against Cork, which yielded 2-28 and 23 wides, Galway will be encouraged by their performance for three-quarters of the way against Tipperary in last year's qualifiers when they led by six points, before losing the final 20 minutes by 2-10 to 0-1.
The collapse was put down to Galway's eccentric ways, but that insults Tipperary's input, which was really powerful.
It underlined yet again that when Tipperary get all parts of their game moving in unison, they are extremely difficult to contain.
However, they don't always do that, which explains why their supporters are wary about tomorrow's test against such unpredictable opposition.
Still, Tipperary's role as hot favourites is understandable on the basis of their greater reliability. They look good enough to win this one.