Sunday 17 December 2017

Galway will provide Tipp with 'biggest' test of the league, insists McIntyre

Former Galway manager John McIntyre led them to their last league crown seven years ago. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Galway manager John McIntyre led them to their last league crown seven years ago. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The current Galway crop have been hovering with intent at the business end of the hurling championship in recent years with little to show for their efforts and former manager John McIntyre believes a league title could work wonders for the Tribesmen.

McIntyre led Galway to their last league crown seven years ago and while an historic Leinster crown followed two years later, their trophy cabinet has many vacancies despite featuring in two All-Ireland finals as their 29-year wait for Liam MacCarthy continues.

He expects those heartbreaking experiences to stand to them "one of these days" and after seeing their promotion bid to Division 1A undone by Wexford, a new-found maturity was shown to turn things around and pull off a "potential season-changer" when coming from ten points down to beat Waterford in last month's quarter-final.

Acquaintances will be renewed with reigning All-Ireland champions Tipperary in Sunday's decider - they have traded wins in All-Ireland semi-final meetings for the past two years - and McIntyre feels another epic is in store with Galway's style perfectly suited to the Premier.

"The big occasion doesn't faze Galway anymore. Over the years they have been accused of having a soft centre, lacking leaders when the pressure comes on and being deficient when it comes to bottle but no team turns that deficit around against Waterford unless they have an inner steel," he said.

"That result and the manner which they pulled it out of the fire has already turned around their season and they'll be going all guns blazing on Sunday, there will be no hiding place against the best. With both teams lining up in orthodox fashion, they'll go at it from the start.

"That explains why they're so evenly matched and it's difficult for defences when they play because it's man-to-man marking at the back and it's wide open at times. Both sets of forwards tend to do damage and Sunday will be no different, it'll be a free-wheeling type of game which both teams are desperately keen to win for different reasons."

While much of the talk is based on the scoring exploits of the McGrath brothers, Noel and John, Seamus Callanan (who will miss out through injury) and John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, McIntyre feels the Tribesmen are the one team that can match them in that department.

The Lorrha native, a former Premier senior player, expects Tipp's talent-laden forward division to exploit any weakness in Galway's rearguard but he feels "a potentially lethal Galway forward line" can do likewise at the other end.

"We saw what Tipp were capable of against Wexford; if you stand off their forward line you're asking for trouble but the same applies for Galway. Cooney, Mannion, Whelan and Canning will do damage if you give them time and space. This could be a shoot-out," he said.

"A lot of people will be looking at it with interest because if Tipperary do a number on Galway, the general view that Tipp are well ahead of the rest will be given credence. If Galway are close to them at the finish or pull off a victory, then suddenly the championship is blown open."

Tipp boss Michael Ryan is trying to do something he couldn't achieve as a player as the Premier look to follow last September's All-Ireland triumph with a first league title since 2008 and McIntyre expects neither side to leave anything behind as they search for momentum ahead of another summer charge.

"Mick Ryan is anxious to break new ground with this team," he added. "They've set out their stall, they want to win this title and seem to have an inner belief which exudes calm in tight situations but they're facing their biggest challenge of the campaign. It should be a humdinger."

Irish Independent

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