Sport Hurling

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Cunningham closes the door and turns up the heat in redemption bid

Galway manager Anthony Cunningham
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham

Declan Rooney

Galway hurlers have become the latest side to close their training sessions to the public, with manager Anthony Cunningham warning his men that team selection will be based on how players perform in those sessions.

And he is hopeful that a series of red-hot training sessions in recent weeks will have Galway well prepared for Davy Fitzgerald's side following their collapse against Dublin in the Leinster final.

The gates have been locked at training in Athenry and Pearse Stadium since last week to exclude prying eyes, and Cunningham has been encouraged by what he has seen from his men as they try to bounce back after relinquishing their Leinster title.

"There won't be any knee-jerk reactions from Dublin, but the guys that played in the Leinster final have had to prove themselves again in training," he said.

"It took us 50 minutes to get up to the required championship pace against Dublin, but we still only played championship hurling for about 10 minutes. If we start with that intensity, that will help us a lot.

"We won't be looking too much at the Leinster final, we won't mull over the analysis of what happened that day. Whoever has performed well in training in the last two weeks will be picked, it's as simple as that," added Cunningham, whose side lost by two points to the Banner in league action earlier this year.

Cunningham had mixed news to report on the injury front, with a cruciate ligament problem ending recent call-up Sean Skehill's involvement with the panel. Otherwise, the Tribesmen have a clean bill of health.

"With Sean, we don't know how bad it is just yet, we'll just have to wait and see when he gets all the tests done," said Cunningham.

"Niall Donoghue is back training with us and he is definitely in contention to start this weekend. But there is a lot of pressure for places to start."

Sunday will be the first time Cunningham leads Galway into senior action against Clare, but as U-21 boss in 2009 he tasted defeat to the eventual champions, whose side featured nine of the Clare panel that are likely to line out in Thurles.

Joe Canning hit 4-7 that day for Galway, but Darach Honan with 2-4 and Colin Ryan with 0-8 drove Clare to an epic 3-23 to 5-15 extra-time win. Cunningham is well aware of the Banner's talents.

Exceptional

"Clare were unlucky to lose to Cork in Munster. They wasted three good goal chances that day in the first half, so there is no doubt they are an emerging team with huge calibre players, they are an exceptional, top-class team," he said.

"They have won two U-21 titles in the last few years and that class is beginning to come through to the seniors.

"They have the likes of Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, John Conlon and Darach Honan. They are four key men for them and they are hugely talented forwards.

"There is no weak link in their side in my book and it looks like we will have to be at our best to win the game. It looks like a top-drawer performance is needed from us.

"If we play hard and fast hurling we expect to be in with a good chance on the day. The required performance wasn't delivered the last day, but at least we have a chance to redeem ourselves on Sunday."

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