Wednesday 22 November 2017

John Mullane: Pendulum has swung in Galway's favour

Return of the Burkes will be a major boost to the Tribesmen for replay

Galway full-forward Joe Canning steps over Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan in pursuit of the sliotar during yesterday’s clash in Croke Park SPORTSFILE
Galway full-forward Joe Canning steps over Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan in pursuit of the sliotar during yesterday’s clash in Croke Park SPORTSFILE
'Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunkett has done an unbelievable job with Laois'

John Mullane

I fear that the loser of next Saturday's replay between Dublin and Galway in Tullamore is in for a short summer. That's the big conclusion gained from watching both teams battle out a Croke Park stalemate and the fear of failure heading into the replay is immense.

Before throw-in, and from a neutral viewpoint, we didn't know what to expect from either side, especially on the back of their league form.

Galway had exited the competition tamely against Waterford and Dublin blew that 12-point lead in the semi-final loss to Cork.

The big question is how both teams would react and it was Galway who were quickest out of the blocks, with Cyril Donnellan setting the tone early on and showing up well on his return from injury.

He scored a fine early point and Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan was a busy man.

It took Dublin all of 20 minutes to register their first score from play and but for the industry and scoring touch of Mark Schutte, they would have been further behind at half-time.

As it was, Galway held a slender interval advantage and Dublin recovered well from the concession of Joseph Cooney's goal, hitting back with a string of points.

That showed good character from Dublin as Galway had dictated the opening 20 minutes, with an awful lot of space appearing in their forward division to exploit.

Johnny Glynn and Andy Smith were playing deep-lying roles and that left Cathal Mannion with room inside, which he thrived on.

It was an up and down kind of game for Joe Canning, who was carrying an injury, and Mannion was Galway's best forward over the 70 minutes.

Joe missed a chance that he would normally gobble up and that summed up his afternoon, as he struggled to exert a consistent influence.

Schutte continued to impress and he brought his excellent league form into the first half in particular.

He's a real block of a man but losing Peter Kelly was a blow to Dublin, and Paul Schutte missing out from the start was another major defensive setback.

And yet Dublin were just a point down at half-time, with the scoreboard not reflective of Galway's dominance.

Padraig Mannion went to pick up Schutte in the second half and while he added a point, we didn't see much more from the Dublin forward. It reminded me of the league semi-final when the ball dried up going into Schutte and Dublin were faced with the conundrum of whether to leave him inside or bring him out the field.

They brought him out against Cork but left him in there this time and Schutte cut an isolated figure close to the Galway goal.

David Treacy was good on the frees for Dublin but missed a chance that would have put them two up at a critical stage.

Overall, the game never really caught fire but there was a period in the second half, from the 48th to 53rd minutes, when it went up a notch and hit something like championship pace.

It was strange though that neither team took the game by the scruff of the neck at this time.

A goal in the second half would have provided huge momentum but it never came and while both teams looked like winning it at various stages, a draw was probably the right result.

Mannion was excellent for Galway and I thought Liam Rushe really stood up for Dublin when they needed him in the second half.

Schutte was excellent in that first half and Jason Flynn could be happy with his performance too, and Donnellan put over a few good scores.

I had a feeling Dublin would win it at the first time of asking but the pendulum has swung towards Galway now. Anthony Cunningham said after the game that the three Burkes might be back and that will be a huge triple-boost for Galway.

Dublin might be without Kelly, who went off injured, and I think you'll see a better performance from Joe Canning.

What also struck me was the lack of interest from Dublin fans in the game.

I know that Dublin supporters traditionally follow the footballers but this hurling team is one worth getting behind.

The pick of the two games was always going to be the hurling as Dublin were set up for a turkey shoot of Longford in the football.

I just can't get my head around why Dublin fans wouldn't come in early to watch the hurling as well.

They would have got added value for money and watched two games instead of one.

It just goes to show that while Dublin hurling has made huge progress in recent years, they're still losing the battle for many hearts and minds.

Dublin football is box office material but surely a good hurling game is better to watch than a one-sided football rout?

Mahony loss incalculable to Waterford

Waterford are the form team going into the championship but Pauric Mahony's untimely season-ending injury complicates matters.

There's so much talk about Pauric and how he'll be such a loss on the frees but there's much more to his game than that.

He plays that number 11 role so well, picking off long-range scores and bringing other players into the game.

He teases the opposition centre-back, who has to decide whether to hold his position or follow Pauric when he wanders.

There are a number of options to fill the void. You could see Stephen Bennett, Jake Dillon or Brick Walsh play there.

Austin Gleeson is another candidate and pushing him from wing-back to centre-forward could see a fit again Steven Daniels or Darragh Fives come into the half-back line.

It's a tough one for manager Derek McGrath because Austin is Ken McGrath-esque in the sense that you could play him anywhere on the pitch.

But Derek will be loathe to break up the half-back line trio of Austin, Tadhg De Búrca and Philip Mahony.

For Cork, Brian Murphy's return is a massive fillip.

He might be in his 30s but my old foe Murphy is probably the best man-marker Cork have had for the last 30 years.

And I don't think Jimmy Barry-Murphy is bringing him back to sit on the bench.

I'm sure that JBM has Murphy earmarked to pick up one of the Waterford forwards and whoever he's marking is in for a long afternoon.

Another big question that will be answered is whether or not JBM is finally ready to break with his own tradition by moving away from the conventional 15 against 15.

Should be a humdinger but Waterford to shade it.

Laois must get ‘Cheddar’ back in time for Offaly

There are absolutely no winners in the Laois hurling row that threatens to derail preparations for next Sunday's Leinster quarter-final against Offaly.

What was an eminently winnable game is now fraught with danger from a Laois perspective, with the manager gone and former captain Matthew Whelan dropped from the panel.

I just hope that this situation can be sorted out because Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett has done an unbelievable job with Laois.

Remember how low they were when Cork put ten goals past them in the championship a few years ago? Cheddar revitalised the fortunes of Laois hurling and brought them to a point where they taken seriously again.

He brought a huge level of professionalism, bringing trainers Jimmy Payne and Pat Flanagan from Waterford along with Paraic Fanning.

Ger Cunningham arrived from Limerick as coach and I'm told that Cheddar pumped an awful lot of his own money into the project.

The biggest loser in this sorry saga is Laois hurling because they had a huge chance against Offaly. I can understand where Cheddar was coming from as there were rules in place regarding players and their club commitments.

But on the flipside, this was a club challenge a fortnight out from championship and perhaps it's a slight overreaction.

On a wider scale, it's a situation that needs resolving one way or the other before next Sunday.

Laois need every player on the pitch and Cheddar on the sideline to be competitive.

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