Galway minds are on the jobSeptember 4, 2012 - 7:00am
Mind games over the referee’s role have provided the only unusual backdrop to Galway’s first All-Ireland hurling final in seven years as the Tribesmen bid to prevent Kilkenny from winning their sixth title in seven years at Croke Park on Sunday (3.30pm).
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has expressed concerns that Westmeath official Barry Kelly may be instructed by the GAA authorities to adopt an overly strict approach, following the fallout from his side’s victory over Tipperary in a physical semi-final last month.
The All-Ireland champions will have to field without midfielder Michael Rice, who sustained a crushed knuckle and lacerated ligaments in his hand in the 4-24 to 1-15 hammering of the Munster champions.
Rice was struck with a hurl in the 19th minute of the semi-final, a foul stroke which went unpunished, before Kilkenny took control in the second half. U-21 star Cillian Buckley looks set to take Rice’s place in Cody’s starting line-up on Sunday.
“I think there could be a stupid reaction now,” said Cody. “The last three All-Ireland finals were played and the game was let flow. They were outstanding games. Suddenly, there could be a crazy reaction to a couple of instances in the semi-final.”
Given how Galway shocked the All-Ireland champions in the provincial final, opening up a 2-12 to 0-4 lead by half-time, a savage intensity can be anticipated in the opening 15 to 20 minutes as both sides will aim to take early control of the decider.
Kilkenny are on a revenge mission, while Galway are hoping to become the first team in history to beat the Cats twice in the one championship, while also ending their own 24-year wait for the Liam McCarthy Cup to cross the Shannon.
Galway manager Anthony Cunningham, who reported no injuries in the camp following the weekend training sessions, refused to be drawn into a war of words with Cody.
“I didn’t hear the comments. We are busy training. The games Kilkenny have been involved in have been fantastic spectacles. They play it hard and they play it fair. Their games are hard, fast, and intense. Hurling has evolved as a game,” said Cunningham.
For more, read this week's Connacht Sentinel.