Canning: Tribesmen must share scoring burden
Legend Ollie urges Leinster champions to copy varied approach of Cats and Dubs
THEY have only seen 70 minutes of championship hurling but the road ahead has opened up for Galway.
When they wake on Sunday morning, they'll survey a landscape that wasn't expected to develop until August at the earliest – if at all.
Kilkenny or Tipperary will be gone, while the Munster champions will be a team who will play in Division 1B next spring.
Meanwhile, Galway have been quietly going about their business as Anthony Cunningham looks to avoid the fate that befell previous teams from the county that reached All-Ireland finals.
On the previous four occasions, the campaign after an All-Ireland final appearance has ended with a change of manager out west. Cyril Farrell (1991), Jarlath Cloonan (1994), Noel Lane (2002) and Conor Hayes (2006) all moved on having come within touching distance of glory.
"I think that's something that's maybe made more of in the media than in Galway," insists Ollie Canning, who played in the All-Ireland finals of 2001 and 2005.
"In 2002, we were beaten by a point by Clare who went on to the All-Ireland final. That's the kind of margin you are talking about. In 2006, we were beaten by Kilkenny and they were maybe at the peak of their powers at that stage so that doesn't really tell the whole story.
"There was a big overhaul in the panel last year with a lot of new faces and they did get a lot of experience with the Leinster and All-Ireland finals – so a lot of them are still new to inter-county hurling."
Recently, Damien Hayes insisted Ollie's brother Joe was better utilised at full-forward rather than the rotation policy the county pursue and, regardless of how his sibling is deployed, Ollie wants Galway to have a broader attacking threat.
"I don't want to concentrate too much on Joe. The management like to rotate their forwards and when it works it works well but on other occasions maybe it works better to have players in one position but that's management's decision and you have to respect them enough to let them get on with it.
"But if you look at Kilkenny, they would have scorers from all over the field. Dublin had seven different scorers against Kilkenny. You need that if you're going to be successful."
Galway are favourites for Sunday's Leinster final with Dublin but there are many variables. The Dubs will be in action for the fifth weekend in a row, only eight days on from their landmark win over the Cats.
While in a throwback to their pre-Leinster days, Galway have played only Division 2A opposition in Laois since April and will be expected to make a significant step up. By Sunday night, Dublin will have been over-exposed or Galway undercooked.
"Laois set themselves up really well and made things difficult for Galway. Maybe that's not the way to set up to give you the best chance of winning but it certainly gave Galway problems and you have to give them credit for that.
"But even when that goal went in late on, I was confident that they'd find a way out of it.
"The general public were expecting Kilkenny in the Leinster final, especially after the drawn game where they thought Dublin had missed their chance. But they out-hurled Kilkenny and played some very intelligent hurling and used their extra man well in defence and got a good supply into the full-forward line. Physically, they are very impressive."
This will only be the third championship meeting between the sides but Dublin and Galway's story has intertwined in recent seasons.
They met in a league relegation final last year and Galway used that win as a platform for Leinster success and an All-Ireland final appearance. Dublin's year petered out and it might have brought Anthony Daly's reign to an end.
Dublin won the 2011 championship clash that was perhaps more memorable for some of the criticism John McIntyre's squad shipped from within the county.
"That's not something management can control but Dublin were the coming team at the time and Gary Maguire made some very good saves," Canning explains. "I felt some of the criticism was over the top. Those players go out and train hard and they give everything and that was hard to hear."
Galway's performance in last year's Leinster final underlined the potential that their underage success had hinted at and Canning agrees there were similarities to how Galway and Dublin played in wins over Kilkenny in the last 12 months. However following up one big performance with another has been an issue for both sides.
"You could draw comparisons between Dublin and Galway in that regard, playing a good game and following up with another has been a struggle for both but it has been a struggle for everyone really bar Kilkenny. Tipperary did it when they won the All-Ireland but they have been up and down since then.
"This year there's only been 70 minutes of championship hurling so it's not much to go on. The league was up and down but they were trying new things.
"Some new faces got chances in the league but I think you'll be looking at the majority of players who played in the All-Ireland finals last year. And I'd still regard a lot of them as new blood."