Wednesday 13 December 2017

John Mullane: Don't rule out another All-Ireland draw next Sunday

I'm finding it difficult to separate Galway and Kilkenny

Galway will have to find a way of curbing the influence of Richie Hogan
Galway will have to find a way of curbing the influence of Richie Hogan

John Mullane

Are Kilkenny playing within themselves or are they there for the taking?

It's a question I've grappled with over the last week when analysing previous matches between the Cats and Galway and one I'm no closer to knowing the real answer to.

Only next Sunday will provide us with real clarity and while I still think Kilkenny will win the game, I'm not backing them with the confidence of previous years.

We've had draws in the last three All-Ireland finals. I wouldn't rule out another one.

For Galway to have any chance of winning, Joe Canning has to be deployed at number 11 for as long as possible.

Bar the exception of that wonder goal in the Leinster final, Joey Holden had the upper hand in their individual battle.

Holden has really surprised me and I'd say he's surprised the Kilkenny public too - and his manager.

Brian Cody probably didn't expect that Joey would slot in there so comfortably but he's a very good full-back and a spoiler.

Cody's Galway counterpart Anthony Cunningham has a big decision to make - and that's who will pick up Richie Hogan?


Daithí Burke was brilliant for 40 minutes on Hogan in the Leinster final before the Kilkenny talisman dropped back as a third midfielder sweeping across the half-back line, with Colin Fennelly slotting into centre forward.

That left Galway in a position where nobody was tracking Hogan but if he drops into the middle third again, Canning could pick him up.

Playing Joe in the same role as Richie would help to counteract what Kilkenny are doing.

If Joe, for argument's sake, picks him up, another player will drop into the centre forward position for Galway, leaving a two-man full-forward line and Holden spare.

But the reason you can't have a player like Burke following Hogan all over the field is that it will leave a mountain of space for TJ Reid to exploit on the edge of the Galway square.

Fergal Moore had a reasonably good Leinster final and while he's found himself on the bench this summer, I'd be tempted to start him, given his experience of playing in All-Ireland finals.

It would be hard to drop a player from the Galway defence but Moore is tough and tenacious.

Reid is one of Kilkenny's two best ball-winning forwards, Eoin Larkin the other.

Why is this so? Because they both catch the ball with their right hand, which is very difficult for a defender to deal with.

If you're marking them under an aerial ball, defenders need to be on their right hand side when natural instinct dictates a starting position on the left.

Cillian Buckley is another massive man for Kilkenny and he had a remarkable 27 plays against Waterford.

David Burke was on him in the Leinster final and was unfortunate that he was taken off as Buckley didn't exert the influence he would have liked.

The man for Buckley could be Cyril Donnellan but Galway need to choose their match-ups wisely.

Galway need a few things going their way in order to win. When Tipp scored goals in the semi-final, Galway responded brilliantly with the next score.

That was admirable but they can't afford a lull period against Kilkenny.

They were a point down in the 48th minute of the Leinster final but six minutes later, they were six behind and it was effectively game over. A lapse similar to that will prove fatal again.


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