Kenny sets Galway sights on meeting own targetsJuly 6, 2012 - 7:00am
GALWAY coach Mattie Kenny pauses. It’s a long pause and it’s hard to gauge if he is formulating his thoughts or, maybe, is just a little flummoxed. Given the question – and that so many others have failed to find the answer – it is probably somewhere in between.
The question regards the breathtaking movement of the Kilkenny forwards, their ability to ghost in on goal, and how does a team go about counter-acting that. In the end, there is a mutual, nervous laugh but, in light of the Tribesmen’s impending Leinster senior hurling final visit to Croke Park, the question had to be asked.
“On one-to-one challenges, Kilkenny are very, very strong,” concedes Kenny. “So, it comes down to the team playing as a defensive unit, reducing the amount of one-to-one challenges and getting as many numbers behind the ball as possible. The Kilkenny attack is the best attack out there and our defence is going to be tested on Sunday.”
Indeed, given Galway have conceded a whooping 7-65 to the Leinster men between the Walsh Cup (2-20 to 1-14), Inter-Provincial series (2-19 to 1-15) and the National Hurling League (3-26 to 0-10) – and scored just 2-29 – already this year, the Galway rearguard can be excused if they feel a measure of trepidation. Kenny insists, though, that right across the set-up, this is a test they are relishing.
“Overall, playing Kilkenny at this time of the season has to be good for Galway hurling. We are in early July and it is going to give an exact reading of where we are at. All the players, management and backroom team are looking forward hugely to the challenge and we want to bring the Galway style of play to Croke Park.
“We will not be going up there to just stop Kilkenny hurling either; we will go up there to bring the Galway style of hurling, our game, to Croke Park. As I have said before, this is a process we have embarked upon now for the next couple of years. So, we have to have confidence in our own team and our own ability and that we can bring our own style of play to the game on Sunday. And, most importantly, that we ask Kilkenny as many questions of them as they will of us.”
That seems like fighting talk, but Kenny – be it with his native Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry or, previously, with the Galway U-21s, who he has coached to All-Ireland victories in 2005 and 2011 – has never been one to shy away from the battleground and, more often than not, is the first soldier to charge over the parapet.
Galway certainly will need some of that steel on Sunday, particularly given the Tribesmen are not being given a shadow of a chance by the bookmakers. Kilkenny are firm favourites at 1/6 while the more optimistic pundits can acquire Galway at 5/1. Kenny is having none of it.
“We have prepared as best we can for a Leinster final. If we go up as favourites or as underdogs, doesn’t make any difference. We are going up to give the best performance we can on the day. I remember, the last time we spoke, you asked me did we feel we were making progress. On Sunday, we play a top team, so it is a good opportunity to see how far this team has come.”
Still, with expectation low going into this game, both inside and outside the county, that has to be an advantage. After all, who needs that pressure? “Well, we don’t see it as pressure,” retorts Kenny. “The only pressure we are under – and this is the pressure we are putting on ourselves – is to perform to the best of our ability.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.