Wednesday 24 July 2019

Galway can pass ultimate test of their pedigree as champions

Clare spooked them by redeploying Galvin as a sweeper but it's most unlikely to be as effective again

'The biggest doubt is about Gearóid McInerney, who has been a rock at No 6. No one stops
the traffic more effectively than him. If he is ruled out, I’d replace him with Joseph Cooney.' Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
'The biggest doubt is about Gearóid McInerney, who has been a rock at No 6. No one stops the traffic more effectively than him. If he is ruled out, I’d replace him with Joseph Cooney.' Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Cyril Farrell

It's amazing how one game - a drawn one at that - can change perceptions so quickly.

Before last Saturday, many Galway people seemed to think that the clash with Clare was little more than a straightforward means to another final, while Banner supporters travelled to Croke Park more in hope than in confidence.

The mood has changed. I met lots of Galway people at the races this week, who were fearing the worst for the replay, while Clare smiles were lighting up Ballybrit.

'So Galway aren't that powerful after all. Our lads came back from a nine-point deficit, took the game to extra-time and when they needed one final push to save the day, Jason McCarthy delivered it in style. There's more to come.'

That will be the view inside the camp too and after watching Limerick, who lost heavily to Clare in the Munster Championship, reach the final last Sunday, the Banner's motivation drive is at its maximum.

Quite right too, so the test for Galway is how they react to the different circumstances. In fact, it could well decide the game.

If ever there was a time for squad and management to retain a steely resolve this is it. Injuries intervened to a large degree last Saturday and we won't know for sure until shortly before 2pm tomorrow what exactly is the state of play. Indeed, we won't know then either because lads may play, without being on full throttle.

Obviously, the biggest doubt is about Gearóid McInerney, who has been a rock at No 6. No one stops the traffic more effectively than him.

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If he is ruled out, I'd replace him with Joseph Cooney (right). It might seems strange to switch a forward into defence, but he has lots of experience there. Indeed, it might be his ideal location.

He has been out-of-sorts in the half-forward line this summer and with Jason Flynn, Niall Burke and a few others well capable of stepping into the attack, Donoghue is not short of options.

Together with Francis Forde and Noel Larkin, he will have taken a long, hard look at the direction the drawn game took after Galway appeared set for an easy day early on.

Colm Galvin dropping back in a sweeper role worked brilliantly for Clare, changing the shape of the game and very nearly ending Galway's reign as champions.

It should not have had that impact. It's not as if it was the first time Galway came up against that system, yet they seemed to have been totally surprised by it.

Launching high balls towards Johnny Glynn had worked well up to then, but once Galvin retreated deep, Galway needed to adjust. Instead, they played right into Clare's hands by continuing with the aerial bombardment. Now, though, it was no longer one-on-one for Glynn.

With Galvin gone from midfield, Tony Kelly buzzed around there (and deeper too) but wasn't picked up for a long time. Still, that should have left Galway with extra bodies to work the ball upfield and into shooting positions, effectively isolating Galvin. They did that very effectively against similar systems last year but, for whatever reason, not last Saturday.

But then, apart from the early burst, they weren't anything like as composed as they have been. That's best illustrated by their 12 wides in the first half, which is uncharacteristically wayward for them. So when it's all weighed up, Galway had good reason to be happy with a draw and a chance to re-assess everything.

They need to be less predictable this time, especially with the puck-outs. Hoisting high balls down on the opposition half-back area is okay if you're winning a decent share of them, but Galway weren't.

Why not start from the back and work up through the lines, something they had done so well over the previous 15 months?

Clare succeeded in doing that, right down to the last seconds when they set up McCarthy for the levelling point.

They will now believe they can complete the job, but it's not that simple. They know that Galway are capable of a lot better than they showed for long stretches last Saturday and, if they deliver, will Clare succeed where so many others have failed? I would expect Galway to put a lot more pressure on the Clare half-back line this time, not just under the high ball, but also with strong, direct running.

Defenders always look good coming onto the ball but what about when they are being run at? As for Clare's sweeper system, it's most unlikely to be as effective again as Galway will read it better. Ensuring that Galvin and Kelly aren't as prominent has to be a Galway priority.

As for Clare, they will be looking for the quick start this time, hoping to sow seeds of doubts in the Galway ranks.

This is where Galway need to exploit their standing as All-Ireland champions and the side who have remained unbeaten in the championship for two years.

Players and management have to keep the faith, show why they are champions and use it to put doubts in Clare minds. If they do, then they can book a date with Limerick in the final.

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