Sunday 18 March 2018

History, form and logic all point to more Galway woe

TJ Reid of Kilkenny in action. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
TJ Reid of Kilkenny in action. Photo: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Perceptions can be misleading. If you were to ask a wide cross-section of hurling people which side has scored more goals in the last five Galway-Kilkenny Championship clashes, the vast majority would probably opt for Brian Cody's snipers.

No doubt, the same answer would emerge for a similar question on the last 10 games.

It would be wrong on both counts. The goal count from the last five games is 12-11 in Galway's favour and 21-19 for 10 games. Stretch it out to 12 games and Galway lead 29-25.

All other counties are in negative goal equity against Kilkenny over their last 10 games. Tipperary trail them 18-12 and Cork 14-6, decisive margins that reflect Kilkenny's dominance over the other two members of the 'Big 3' club.

So here's the conundrum: if the premise that 'goals win games' is faithfully borne out in Kilkenny's relationship with so many of their big rivals, why is it different with Galway?

How can Galway out-goal them over 12 games and still have only one win to show?

The only logical conclusion is that Kilkenny have an innate capacity to work their way through whatever puzzle is placed in front of them. Score more points and they'll kill you with goals. Score more goals and they'll compensate with points.

Obviously, it doesn't always work that way but it happens far more often than not and certainly frequently enough to make them the most formidable force hurling has ever seen.

In effect, they always get the best out of themselves, whereas some others don't, with Galway the unfortunate market-leaders in that category.

Their better days prove how effective they can be but the follow-up rate is so inconsistent that it makes winning an All-Ireland an impossibility.

It can change, of course, but unless it does, the All-Ireland desert will widen.

This year's Allianz League suggested that nothing had changed in Galway.

Highly efficient against Cork first day out, they malfunctioned against Dublin. They mixed the bad with the good against Kilkenny but didn't have enough of the latter to win. Next up was Tipperary, who grabbed a draw late on in Pearse Stadium, a result that effectively despatched Galway into a relegation play-off.

They also drew the final game against Waterford, again having victory snatched away in the final seconds.

The most important League test came in the relegation clash with Cork, where they conceded two late goals and lost by three points.

It left Galway with one win from six games against the top sides, a deeply unsatisfactory campaign for a squad that had more reason than any of their rivals to make a bold statement after forcing a change of management late autumn.


The League has faded deep into the background now but as an indicator of what lay ahead, it was not good for Galway.

Kilkenny's League semi-final defeat by Clare sparked an over-reaction, based on the claim that their defence had been found out. In truth, it was no more than a blip, a day when everything ran right for Clare.

In fairness, Clare played very well but Davy Fitzgerald would be the first to admit that something isn't quite right when Kilkenny concede 4-22.

Still, it's a scoreline that will have caught Galway's attentions as they have forwards who are capable of unsettling any defence, provided they get enough possession.

Read more: Tribes' silent assassins must prove their toughness on big stage

Of course, they have to help in that process, something which they did in the first half of last year's All-Ireland final, only to fade for some incomprehensible reason after half-time.

It has become something of a cliché to state that nobody knows which Galway team will turn up.

It's true up to a point but their reality against Kilkenny is that only once in the last 12 meetings has a winning team group presented itself. That's failure under any heading.

On that basis, it's difficult to make a coherent case why Galway should win tomorrow.

Unless, of course, you believe that the law of averages will make another dramatic intervention, just as it did in the 2012 Leinster final.

It could happen but, based on more reliable evidence, the likely outcome is a 16th Leinster title win for Kilkenny in 19 seasons.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Read more: Too often Tribesmen fall short when it comes to the crunch

Irish Independent

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