Friday 24 November 2017

Cyril Farrell: People say Galway can't handle favourites' tag - I don't buy that at all

Conor Cooney of Galway during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Conor Cooney of Galway during the Leinster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Final match between Galway and Wexford at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

This is it for Galway. It's 'stand up and be counted' time. The days of team-building and looking to the future are over.

The contract has been prepared and the pen provided so now it's a question of whether they sign off on the deal.

Not just tomorrow either. Reaching another All-Ireland final will count for nothing unless it's won.

Kilkenny, who have been a major problem for Galway, are off the pitch.

Tipperary appear to have slipped a little from last year, Cork are still building and doubts persist about whether Waterford can go all the way so this is Galway's big chance to take over at No 1.

They certainly have the technical ability to do it so now it's all about mental toughness. That's a deep and personal thing, which only each individual player can address for himself.

There's always a doubt about it until a team wins an All-Ireland, even more so in Galway's case, since they have been hovering at the door for so long without taking the big step inside.

Why is that the case? Only they can answer. A lot of them have been around for a good few years and realise that opportunities won't keep coming. This year offers the best chance - possibly even a career-defining chance.

Having won the All-Ireland last year, we know that Tipperary possess the mental durability required at this level. Indeed, some of them were successful in 2010 too, so the right type of experience is there.

While Tipperary have no question to answer on that front, defensive issues have arisen this year, creating doubts about their prospects of winning the two in a row.

It's quite simple really. If the full-back line is as unreliable tomorrow as it has been, Tipp's goose is cooked. Of course, they could be much better, in which case the dynamic changes.

After all, James Barry, who has been unsettled this summer, was an All-Star full-back last year so we know what he is capable of. It could come right again for him tomorrow.

Galway will certainly go about testing Tipp's back three early on, probably with Joe Canning dropping in around full-forward, the role he filled so successfully in his early days. He might not be sited there all the time but I'm sure he'll drift in that direction to test Tipperary nerves.

Michael Ryan isn't one to go for a sweeper but Brendan Maher will probably drop back a little from midfield to tighten the defensive bolts, just as David Burke will do for Galway.

Overall, though, this will be a good old-fashioned shoot-out, as Galway-Tipp games almost always are.

Much of the focus has been on Tipp's defensive problems but what about the other end, where Galway are facing a much tougher examination than they got in Leinster?

Seamus Callanan, John O'Dwyer and the McGraths are so comfortable on the ball that they will always build up a big score if the supply is right. 'Bonner' Maher is vital too for a different reason.

His strike rate is fairly low but his ability to win possession and drive at defences opens up all kinds of avenues for his more prolific colleagues.

If both sides hurled at maximum capacity, Galway would have the edge, which brings us back to their mentality.

It has been suspect, although it must be said the problem manifested itself mostly against Kilkenny, rather than Tipperary.

I've heard it said that Galway don't do well as favourites but I don't think that's remotely relevant.

If a team is going to win an All-Ireland they have to be able to cope with everything. Besides, it's quality that earns the favourites' tag so how can that be a drawback?

I fancied Galway for the All-Ireland from the start this year and have seen nothing to make me alter my view.

They can take a step closer tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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