Tuesday 12 December 2017

John Mullane: Canning needs help with scoring burden

GALWAY are over-reliant on star forward Joe Canning and that's a major concern for the Tribesmen ahead of the concluding stages of the National League and the championship summer.

The big worry is that not enough players around Canning are stepping up to take some of the scoring burden off his shoulders. Davy Glennon looked sharp against Waterford yesterday but Galway need more. Glennon was the only one to put up his hand yesterday and say 'yeah, I'm going to give Joe a hand here'.

The other forwards seem to be happy and content to just plod away and four of them – Niall Burke, David Burke, Conor Cooney and Cyril Donnellan – were taken off yesterday.

Joe was relatively good but Galway are robbing Peter to pay Paul if they persist with the Portumna man in the half-forward line.

Canning will play well anywhere but if Galway are to get back to the heady heights of last year's championship campaign, Joe has to play at full-forward. He picked off lovely scores at wing-forward in Walsh Park but at times he was playing in his own half-back line.

Anthony Cunningham's side looked very good in the first half against the breeze and were five points up at half-time. It could have been more and it looked as if they would push on in the second half, with a strong wind behind them.

But, just like last year's drawn All-Ireland final, Galway retreated and seemed to be content to hang on to what they had. Against a better team than Waterford, they will pay the price.

But Galway are through to a Division 1 semi-final and that's an improvement on last year, when they found themselves in a relegation play-off. At times yesterday, it looked like they would open Waterford up at will and as a defensive unit they were solid. Niall Donoghue was back at corner-back and that gave Johnny Coen the licence to play at wing-back.

The big plus for Galway was the performance of Aidan Harte in the other wing-back position, and David Collins held his own in the problematic centre-back role.

I'd just worry for Galway if they continue to play to a system whereby they get ahead and then try to shut up shop.

And they're not going to challenge for an All-Ireland title with Joe at wing-forward. Put him close to goal, at No 14, for maximum impact. Galway also need the likes of Niall and David Burke, Andy Smith and Donnellan to recapture top form.

They're still a work in progress but if Joe is missing or gets injured, they're in trouble. Galway without Canning is like Barcelona without Messi – he's that important to them.

The league semi-final against Kilkenny will give Cunningham another chance to experiment as he looks to nail down key positions.

Kevin Hynes held his own at full-back, although Seamus Prendergast did cause him a few problems when he was switched from centre-forward to full-forward.

Overall, I was impressed by the six Galway backs but I don't know if Collins is the answer at No 6. He's probably best served at No 7, for me. And if I was to try anyone at No 6, it would be Niall Donoghue. I think he's worth a shot there.

As for Waterford, the most disappointing aspect for me was the fact that they only scored three points with a strong breeze in the first half – and they came in the first 13 minutes.

From Nos 1-9 we looked solid but the attack struggled a bit. Physically, Galway were too strong for our forwards, but if you'd told manager Michael Ryan and his team that they would avoid relegation before the campaign they would have taken that because there was so much scepticism out there before the season began.

The nine-week wait before the Munster championship clash with Clare is a worry now, though.

They'll probably embark on a training camp but there's no substitute for matches and you have Clare, Cork, Tipp, Kilkenny and Galway all preparing for at least one more league outing.

For Waterford, there's no chance of another competitive game of that nature before the big date in June.

Irish Independent

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