Sport Hurling

Saturday 24 August 2019

Cyril Farrell: 'There comes a time when a team needs to stand up - it has arrived for Galway'

Joe Canning. Photo: Sportsfile
Joe Canning. Photo: Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

If the mood in the Kilkenny camp is in any way reflected in what I heard from supporters at Gowran Park races last Monday, tomorrow will be a painful experience for Galway.

Kilkenny hurling people aren't noted for their lack of confidence, but in this instance I got the impression there was more to it than that. It seems they are convinced that two important factors are coming together at exactly the right time for the team to take another major step forward.

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One: With four points already secured and the injury problems easing, there's a sense that the championship is opening up nicely.

Two: Galway's indifferent form this year has left Kilkenny fans believing that there's no way it can be turned around in Nowlan Park of all places.

I take their point on Kilkenny's current situation, but not on the Nowlan Park issue. I've heard it peddled elsewhere too that Nowlan Park is the last place a team which hasn't been on their game can expect a break.

Nonsense. You don't get breaks unless you make them for yourselves. It doesn't matter a damn whether it's Croke Park, Wexford Park or Nowlan Park, you have to control your own destiny.

Kilkenny will try to dominate everything - on the pitch and on the sideline - so it's up to Galway to stand up to whatever is thrown at them. No backward step on any front.

This isn't a young, inexperienced Galway team or management facing the type of challenge they haven't met before. They are All-Ireland, Leinster and League winners, a battle-hardened squad that should be well able to work their way through problems.

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Of course Joe Canning is a loss, but his absence can never be allowed to become an excuse. In fact, it should be an extra motivation, a challenge to others to move up the leadership ladder.

Obviously, Canning was missed against Carlow and Wexford, but even more worrying from a Galway viewpoint was the sluggish performances of several other top players.

Management and squad have had another two weeks to figure out why that has been the case. They need to get it right tomorrow if Galway aren't to slip further down the rankings.

Okay, so defeat wouldn't eliminate them from the All-Ireland, but they certainly don't want to be heading to Parnell Park next Saturday needing to beat Dublin after already losing to Kilkenny.

The players know what's at stake. They beat Kilkenny twice last year and drew with them once, which made an important statement after years of bad results against Cody's boys.

Defeat tomorrow would not only hand the initiative back to Kilkenny, but also increase doubts in Galway minds. A win would have the opposite impact on confidence levels.

It will be interesting to see how Galway deal with TJ Reid. He needs to be man-marked, rather than allowing the nearest player pick him up when he wanders left or right or goes deep. It looks to me like a job for Pádraic Mannion.

The next week will define where Galway are headed, not just this year, but for the next few seasons. Stay in the All-Ireland race - even as third-placed in Leinster - and they're back in the game, but if the season is over by June 15, the knock-on impact will be damaging. We know for certain that there's a lot more in Galway than they have been showing. Tomorrow is the day to unleash it and I think they will. However serious a defeat might be for Galway, it wouldn't be terminal for their All-Ireland ambitions, unlike Limerick if they lose to Clare.

From their perspective, this is an old style (pre-qualifier) Munster championship game, where defeat would end the season. Clare's poor performance against Tipperary last Sunday, coupled with Limerick's canter against Waterford, has influenced thinking on this game, although John Kiely won't be fooled by last weekend's turn of events.

Limerick did what they had to do, but Waterford were so awful that they could almost be marked absent.

A hurt Clare outfit, which has a good recent record against Limerick, will be a different proposition. Clare need to decide what exactly their game plan is as there were times last Sunday when it was difficult to figure out what they were at. They will be better tomorrow, but you'd still have to fancy Limerick to react positively to the threat of losing their All-Ireland title.

Wexford are happy enough to have drawn their 'away' games against Dublin and Galway and will now work hard at not only beating Carlow, but also building up the scoring difference in case it decides placings after the final round.

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