Monday 19 March 2018

Tribes too loose to stop Cats clawing out winning scores

Conor Whelan’s arrival on the scene after the Leinster final has added pace and flair to a Galway attack which was far too slick for the Cork and Tipperary defences
Conor Whelan’s arrival on the scene after the Leinster final has added pace and flair to a Galway attack which was far too slick for the Cork and Tipperary defences
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Few Galway supporters will admit now that they were deeply sceptical when Anthony Cunningham predicted in early July that the All-Ireland final pairing would be a repeat of the Leinster final.

In fairness, his case didn't look especially convincing as Kilkenny had beaten Galway by seven points while looking very much as if they were playing well within their comfort zone.

Kilkenny's return to the All-Ireland final for the 15th time in 18 seasons looked highly probable whereas Galway drifted down the markets, burdened by a sense that they were similar to the last two years, when their championship bid fizzled out quite tamely.

In reality, they weren't. Instead, they are back as the swashbuckling adventurers that came so close to winning the 2012 All-Ireland title, taking Kilkenny to a replay before Cyril Donnellan's second-half dismissal derailed them.

The transformation has been seismic. Galway created more than 50 chances against Cork, scoring 2-28 and hitting 23 wides before holding their nerve in the most difficult circumstances to beat Tipperary by a point.

The scoreline was significant since it's unusual for any team to win a game via the points route after conceding three goals. It called for a special type of resolve, which Galway had in glorious abundance all through.

The manner in which they repeatedly battled back from the Seamus Callanan-delivered setbacks pointed to a completely different attitude to the last two years, and indeed to what they displayed in the Leinster final.

The biggest compliment that could be paid to Galway is that they looked almost Kilkenny-like in the ferociously determined way they played.

It didn't go unnoticed in Kilkenny. Brian Cody referred to it in his All-Ireland press briefings, admitting to being impressed by "their refusal to be rattled".

A word of caution for Galway. There's a massive difference between how Tipperary 'rattle' the opposition and how Kilkenny dispense their awesome power.

It has been a hallmark of Kilkenny in the Cody era, seen most often when the stakes are at their highest in All-Ireland finals.

And while Galway's dogged persistence, decorated by a wonderful example of point scoring from near and far, was most impressive, it's now facing a much harder test.

There's also the question of how Galway block the avenues which Callanan exploited so ruthlessly in the semi-final. Padraig Mannion, a fine young defender but not a specialist full-back, took the brunt of Callanan's force but where was the cover?

And why were Tipperary's outfield players allowed to despatch such accurate deliveries?

Cunningham and his co-strategists will have devoted long hours to working on that so we can expect a tighter defensive alignment, with more crowding in the middle third.

While Cunningham was grappling with that problem, Cody will have been reflecting on how best to set up his defence against Joe Canning and co.

Conor Whelan's arrival on the scene after the Leinster final has added pace and flair to a Galway attack which was far too slick for the Cork and Tipperary defences.

Kilkenny coped easily enough with Waterford's attacking system but the task was made easier than it might have been by the shortage of man-power close to Eoin Murphy's goal.

Galway will flood into the attacking channels much quicker than Waterford did and with Canning always capable of scoring goals from limited chances, there's every chance they will run up a big score.

Question is, will it be enough to outweigh the damage TJ Reid, Richie Hogan and others inflict at the other end?

For all their inadequacies, Cork scored 0-22 against Galway, having also missed quite an amount. Tipperary returned 3-16 and would have had at least three more goals except for Colm Callanan's brilliance.

Galway's defensive uncertainty is likely to be their undoing.

Galway - C Callanan; J Coen, J Hanbury, P Mannion; A Harte, I Tannian, Daithi Burke; A Smith, David Burke; C Whelan, C Donnellan, J Glynn; J Flynn, J Canning, C Mannion.

Kilkenny - E Murphy: P Murphy. J Holden, S Prendergast; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley; M Fennelly, C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Hogan, TJ Reid; G Aylward, C Fennelly, E Larkin.

Verdict: Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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