Tuesday 12 November 2019

Galway have ammunition but not enough to sink Kerry in shootout

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Click to enlarge image
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

'Bomber' Liston claims to be very wary of Galway ("they have pedigree and they're coming in under the radar"), while Eamonn Fitzmaurice talked up the Tribesmen's firepower ("they have the natural forwards to really punish teams").

Fitzmaurice extended his admiration beyond the attack, noting that Galway also have "a strong midfield, a strong defensive set-up, so they tick a lot of boxes".

A strong defensive set-up? Not on the evidence of the recent clash with Roscommon where Galway suffered their heaviest Connacht final defeat for 66 years, or last year's All-Ireland quarter-final where Tipperary took them for 3-13 in a nine-point win.

Galway suffered such severe system and individual failures against Roscommon that if that game were taken in isolation, you would wonder how they won the Division 2 title and beat Mayo and Donegal in the championship.

What's more, they conceded only 1-11 against Mayo and 0-14 against Donegal. So how could they do well defensively in those games and concede 2-15, and it should have been much higher, against Roscommon?

It's a conundrum that supporters can't figure out but then they don't have to.

Responsibility

That responsibility falls to Kevin Walsh who will have spent a lot of time his week figuring out how block the supply lines to James O'Donoghue and Paul Geaney, whose combined total against Cork in the Munster final reached 1-12 (1-7 from play).

Galway have their own bad memories of O'Donoghue, who scored 1-5 from play against them in the 2014 quarter-final.

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Kerry won that game by seven points, having done all the damage early on when they scored 1-5 before Galway shot their first point.

Kerry blitzed Cork early in this year's Munster final too, effectively winning the game in the first 20 minutes when they opened up a six-point lead.

Dublin, Kerry and Mayo have the experience to recover from early setbacks against top opposition but it's much more difficult for emerging teams like Galway to cope with that type of challenge.

That makes it crucial for Galway to settle quickly and restrict errors to a minimum, something they patently failed to do against Roscommon.

Kerry are a formidable force but it's not as if they can't be got at in their defensive half.

Cork created several excellent goal chances, none of which they converted, but it showed that the Kerry defence has its own solidity issues, especially against opposition who run at them.

Galway will certainly do that and having scored 4-17 last Saturday, albeit against a listless Donegal side, there's every reason to believe they will yield a good return.

Despite that, it's difficult to see them scoring more than a Kerry team that's well used to delivering good performances in Croke Park, something that has eluded Galway in the championship for 16 years.

Success

Their win over Kildare in the Division 2 league final last April was their first success in Croke Park since the 2001 All-Ireland final. In between, they had lost ten and drawn one of 11 games at HQ.

The law of averages suggests they are due a break but it's unlikely to come tomorrow.

Kerry have been consistently effective this year, building steadily as they went, and will be ready for this one too. They have the all-round game to out-manoeuvre Galway and check into the semi-finals for a fifth successive year.

Irish Independent

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