ALL-IRELAND SHC QUARTER-FINAL
CORK v GALWAY
(Thurles, Tom 4.0, Live RTé2)
ANTHONY CUNNINGHAM was in bullish mood in the immediate wake of Galway's Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny.
"These guys are hurling at the top of the game and, with a bit of sharpening up, we will be a match for anyone," he proclaimed.
Three weeks on, with D-Day against a revitalised Cork fast approaching, we detect a slight moderation of tone from the Galway manager.
Cunningham remains adamant that Galway "performed well" against the Cats while conceding that the need for a slight improvement is "staring you in the face". His players had come up short "but not that short" against the best team in the country.
Neutrals might beg to differ: even though Galway secured parity for a few fleeting minutes early in the second half, this observer never formed the impression that Kilkenny were not in control of their own destiny. In truth, we expected more from a Galway team that had wiped the floor with both Dublin and Laois.
Yet, that wonder goal from Joe Canning apart, they never came close to maximising the predatory strengths of their inside line ... partly because Kilkenny, as is their wont, forced so many turnovers out the field, but equally because Galway's approach play lacked sufficient speed or precision.
Cunningham is still insisting that his players are "really buoyed by their performance", knowing there is "a good 20pc they can catch up on" ... to find that extra edge, they must defy history because their recent quarter-final record (six defeats on the spin) is pretty deplorable.
Their prospects are boosted by the return to fitness of David Collins but mentality will be just as key because Cork have transformed themselves into a more competitive beast in recent weeks.
In truth, they looked a busted flush after those back-to-back Waterford defeats in the league final and Munster semi-final. However, Jimmy Barry Murphy has shored up his leaking defence by going down the sweeper route, via Mark Ellis; that, allied to some crucially rediscovered fight, have been instrumental in their defeats of Wexford and Clare.
Can they maintain that momentum? Maybe so.
ODDS: Cork 5/6, Draw 9/1, Galway 5/4