Wednesday 21 August 2019

Brendan Cummins: 'The usual suspects will all fancy their chances but Galway stand out'

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Tim O'Mahony of Cork. Photo: Sportsfile
Tim O'Mahony of Cork. Photo: Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

This time next week we'll have some answers, but right now it's all questions - little riddles to solve before we have an idea who'll lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Is Limerick's form built to last? Are Kilkenny kaput without Eoin Murphy? Can Galway be great without Joe Canning? They say forecasts create the mirage that the future is knowable, and with that caveat, I'll give it my best shot.

I think Galway are in the box seat - despite the league and Canning's injury. If they had to play in Munster I honestly don't think they'd get out, but in Leinster they'll be fine.

They should breeze past Carlow and then they have two weeks to tune up for Wexford. It's amazing what can happen when one big player gets injured - others pick up their game to fill the void and trust me, someone will pop up for the Galway forwards.

They peaked too soon last year. Their best performance was against Kilkenny in May, but four games in five weeks meant they lost that freshness for the All-Ireland final. The lack of depth killed them and, while Micheál Donoghue would never pull Canning from the first three rounds if he was fit, he'll build a stronger side in his absence that Canning can slot into ahead of bigger tests.

Limerick are the biggest threat - no surprise there. They couldn't have been better in the league but I've been in that position before. In 2011 it all came easy to Tipp - we trotted our way through Munster, winning the final by seven goals, but got found out in the All-Ireland final.

That's the danger with momentum. The expectation in your own head can be a problem because you go into a match telling yourself that when I play to my potential, we'll win. But when the picture changes, the pressure comes on and things can fall apart.

The big danger for Limerick is not the Munster Championship - I can't see them out of the top three - it's from July. They're at the peak of their powers now but it has to last into August.

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It's a long old way, but despite that teams will learn from Tipperary's mistake last year in trying to play Munster as a long game. Every team has to play full-strength and if bodies start to fall, then you look at alterations. You have to exhaust your resources and hope to get momentum.

Five into three won't go, and the two that I think will fall in Munster are Clare and Waterford. The opening game in Walsh Park will decide a lot for Waterford. It's a must-win game because I don't think they'll beat Tipp in Thurles.

As for Clare, I have a big reservation about them overplaying the ball in the middle third instead of delivering it to the full-forward line. They're not putting enough pressure on the opposition's full-back line and in the league, John Conlon looked a frustrated figure on the edge of the square.

Their overuse of the ball meant that just under 70pc of the shots on their goal in the league came from ball they turned over. Because of their high-risk strategy, they'll be vulnerable over the average of four matches.

Cork will be going for three in-a-row in Munster but they haven't got due respect and the perception is John Meyler's charges lack steel. Tim O'Mahony's performances at centre back have helped address this, but the big challenge for them is coping with teams that push up on their puck-out.

Vulnerable

In Leinster, I think Dublin and Carlow will miss out. Kilkenny are lucky they have Dublin in Nowlan Park because that opening match is when they'll be most vulnerable. Davy Fitz will have a different plan to other years when he brings Wexford to Parnell Park - a plan Dublin won't be ready for.

For Kilkenny, I can't overstate the loss of Eoin Murphy. Brian Cody couldn't afford not to play him in the league so they haven't blooded a replacement and that could expose them badly.

The teams that win All-Irelands today have the best goalies - it's that simple. In the old days the position was about shot-stopping, but now distribution and organisation come first; shot-stopping is third.

As for Tipp, Liam Sheedy had been chasing Eoin Kelly for a long time for his backroom and now he's got his man. Can they go back to the future? The bodies they're working with aren't the youngest and a lot of these players know it's last-chance saloon. I can see them burning bright in Munster, but can they sustain it?

They're my dark horse if they can, but head-on-the-block time, who will go all the way? Galway.

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