Friday 23 August 2019

Predator Cats set to pounce and add to Tribesmen's discomfort

Brian Cody. Photo: Sportsfile
Brian Cody. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The last time Galway started a championship game as outsiders was in August 2016 for the All-Ireland semi-final clash with Tipperary.

Since then, they have been favourites for all of their 16 games, which yielded 12 wins, three draws and one defeat, the latter by a single point against Limerick in last year's All-Ireland final.

It's an impressive haul which, at face value, should be enough to keep the markets suitably impressed. Not so. They have deserted Galway for tomorrow's engagement, offering them at 13/8, with Kilkenny at 8/13.

Odds never tell anything like the full story, but they do reflect a general mood. In this case, it shows that the public are losing faith in Galway. After all, it's not as if Kilkenny have been sweeping all before them.

True, they have underlined their enduring capacity to remain ultra-competitive while coping with injury and transitional issues, but there has been nothing especially powerful about their performances this year.

So why are they now rated such hot favourites for this game? That's down to Galway and increased misgivings about where exactly they stand. With the exception of the Allianz League game against Dublin in Pearse Stadium in February, there hasn't been a single performance this year which suggested they were returning to the high standards they have set for themselves.

Yes, they beat Wexford by 10 points in the League quarter-final, but even the most basic analysis shows that the visitors, who scored three goals in the first half, imploded from there on.

Surrendered

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Galway surrendered a five-point lead when losing the semi-final against Waterford and weren't overly-convincing winners against Carlow in the Leinster round-robin before drawing with Wexford after losing a six-point lead in the second half.

Joe Canning's absence was always going to test them, but it also offered others in the attack to step up and take leadership roles. Conor Whelan has done well, but other than that, it hasn't happened, which is why there are now so many doubts.

The defence - especially the half-back line - haven't dominated either.

Playing Kilkenny in Nowlan Park will either elicit the response that Galway supporters have been waiting for, or further the suspicion that the team has lost their way. Of course, there's a degree of uncertainty about Kilkenny too, even if they did win their first two games against Dublin and Carlow. Galway, on full power, are better equipped than either of those to stretch Kilkenny.

Nor should Galway have any mental hang-ups, having drawn with Kilkenny and beaten them twice in last year's championship. However, the question remains whether Galway are merely starting the championship slowly, or stuck with more fundamental problems.

Much was made about the depth of Galway's panel when they won the 2017 All-Ireland, but it would now appear to have been overstated.

One defeat in their last 16 championship games is an impressive record, but with so many doubts about their current well-being, they may be about to experience a second setback, leaving them with a must-win game against Dublin next Saturday.

Irish Independent

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