Dublin pose bigger threat to Tribes than recent results suggest
If Dublin and Galway supporters passed the half-time intervals during the hurling League programme on April 2 talking about their respective county's championship prospects - starting with tomorrow's game - the mood on both sides would have been very different to what it is now.
Dublin were leading Clare in a 1A relegation play-off in Ennis while Galway were trailing Waterford in a quarter-final clash in Pearse Stadium. If it stayed that way to the end, Dublin spirits would have soared while uncertainty would have thrived in Galway, who earlier lost out to Wexford for promotion from 1B.
All changed dramatically in the second half. Dublin were hit for 1-4 in the opening five minutes and lost by eight points. Galway fell 10 points behind Waterford before launching a powerful revival, which not only won the game but set them on their way to winning the League title.
Taking the 2-17 to 1-10 deficit after 44 minutes in the quarter-final as the starting point, Galway outscored Waterford, Limerick and Tipperary by 39 points (5-54 to 1-27).
It's a remarkable haul and with Tipperary falling at the first Munster hurdle last Sunday, Galway start the championship as All-Ireland favourites for the first time since 1989 when they were pursuing the three-in-a-row.
Meanwhile, Dublin have been despatched deep into outsiders' territory, amid the general assumption that they will be qualifier-bound tomorrow evening, possibly even with a sizeable defeat behind them.
It's not that straight-forward. There's a tendency in every sport to be overly-influenced by the most recent results but when viewed from a wider angle the picture is often somewhat different.
Apart from the wipe-out by Tipperary in the first round, Dublin's League campaign was not as bad as their points haul suggests. Granted, they won only one game but were competitive in all the others.
Indeed, who knows what might have happened in their last group game against Kilkenny in Parnell Park, if they hadn't lost goalkeeper Gary Maguire on a red card after half an hour? It seriously undermined Ger Cunningham's crew but they were still in touch until the final quarter, before eventually losing by seven points.
That was a negative but, on the positive side, Dublin will be greatly encouraged by Cork's win over Tipperary last Sunday as they beat the Rebels quite comfortably in Páirc Uí Rinn in February, despite being short quite a few first choices.
That seems a very long time ago now but it did show what Dublin are capable of when they get their game right. With the exception of the Leinster quarter-final replay two years ago, they have done well against Galway so they certainly won't have any hang-ups about this challenge, even if there is sense of real optimism out west.
A lack of consistency has been a major problem for Galway over many years and while it improved substantially in the latter stages of the League, the real test is whether they can maintain momentum in the championship.
Joe Canning talked of the consistency issue this week, conceding that while Galway were capable of beating any opposition on a given day, "we were probably not backing it up the following day". The immediate test is whether they can take League form into the championship.
They will need to against a Dublin side which is a lot better than they are being credit for.