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Faithful County no match for Tribesmen's firepower

WHISPER it softly, but there is a feeling afoot among the Faithful that O'Moore Park could be the scene for the first major earthquake of this year's hurling championship.

By half-three tomorrow, we'll know if this was misguided Offaly optimism or justified confidence.

Having witnessed, in the flesh, Offaly's fraught quarter-final victory over Wexford, this reporter can only conclude that other factors beyond recent form have inspired such a mood.

Mind you, we can partly see where it stems from.

It's neither today nor yesterday that Offaly stepped off the pedestal occupied by genuine contenders, but they retain the knack of rattling supposedly superior opponents in a one-off clash.

Two summers ago, they drew with Galway in Croke Park and gave them another bellyful of angst in the replay at Portlaoise.

Last year, it was Dublin's turn to suffer a late anxiety attack before Peadar Carton's goal killed off a valiant comeback.

There is another reason why Offaly might, just might, go one step further here.

For all their lack of recent success, their team has an abundance of championship experience.

You cannot say the same for quite a few of this Galway team, especially in defence, as Anthony Cunningham builds for the future against the obligatory Tribal backdrop of instant expectation.

Based on their second and third-quarter dominance, Offaly deserved to beat Wexford in difficult conditions, but that all-too-familiar proclivity for fadeouts resurfaced as they threatened to blow a nine-point lead.

Galway, mind you, revealed equally worrying traits against Westmeath the following day.

True, they were never going to lose; but the concession of four second-half goals raises question marks about a defence that looked vulnerable under the high ball.

Shane Dooley and Joe Bergin, both goalscorers against Wexford, will look to capitalise on any repeat.

This promises to be a high-scoring shootout but, with Joe Canning over his latest shoulder injury scare and back on the team, the suspicion must be that Anthony Cunningham's Galway will have too many bullets in their holster.

ODDS: Galway 2/7, Draw 12/1, Offaly 3/1


GALWAY: J Skehill; N Donohue, K Hynes, F Moore; J Cooney, T Óg Regan, J Coen; I Tannian, A Smith; D Burke, N Burke, C Donnellan; D Hayes, J Canning, C Cooney.

OFFALY: J Dempsey; D Morkan, D Kenny, D Franks; D Horan, R Hannify, J Rigney; C Mahon, K Brady; J Bergin, C Egan, B Murphy; S Dooley, C Parlon, B Carroll.