Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Have Galway got the mental strength to tame Cats?July 4, 2012 - 8:56am
IT might seem an odd observation to make, but possibly the best thing to have happened the Galway hurlers in the context of Sunday’s Leinster final is the fact that they were hammered by Kilkenny at Nowlan Park in the recent National League campaign. For a start, it means the Cats have no score to settle with the Tribesmen and they won’t necessarily be wound up to the same extent as they were in the league decider against Cork or against Dublin in the provincial semi-final.
Naturally, nothing can be taken as a given when you dealing with the greatest hurling team of all-time, but Kilkenny no longer see Galway as a major threat as evidenced by the recent championship results between the counties, while they are unlikely to draw any extra motivation from that record league beaten they inflicted on Anthony Cunningham’s charges or, for that matter, their comfortable victory over in the Walsh Cup final last February.
That is a potentially big benefit for Galway on Sunday. Remember the build up to the National League final . . . Cork’s challenge was being talked up; they had already beaten Kilkenny in the competition’s group stages; while there was much pre-match focus on Jimmy Barry Murphy’ so far successful second coming as team manager.
Furthermore, the All-Ireland champions had significant injury problems to overcome, including the absent Richie Power, Henry Shefflin and Michael Rice.
Against that background, the general expectation was that the Rebels had a real chance of carrying the day. Instead, the match was over after just ten minutes. Kilkenny went for the jugular early on and with Eoin Larkin proving a big handful on the edge of the square, they had Cork on the ropes in a matter of minutes. In the end, they cantered to a comprehensive victory in Thurles and the team look as good and hungry as ever.
There was a similar backdrop to the subsequent Leinster semi-final against Dublin. True, last year’s league winners ended up been demoted after unluckily coming out on the wrong side in a couple of close group outings but, all the time, the expectation was that the Dubs’ big focus was on their June championship opener against Kilkenny in Tullamore. Their long term casualty list was finally easing too with Thomas Brady, Stephen Hiney and Conal Keaney all restored to full fitness after protracted periods on the sideline.
Team manager Anthony Daly was publicly bullish about having a full squad to choose from for the first time in nearly a year, while Dublin would also have drawn some encouragement from firing home an incredible six goals against Kilkenny in a league match last February. Significantly, however, that haul wasn’t enough to earn them victory but still the hurling community anticipated that their physical intensity alone would severely test Kilkenny. Again, they were wrong in another heavily one-sided encounter.
Once more, Brian Cody’s squad did the damage early. Goals from TJ Reid and Power quickly had the Dubs reeling as their hurling technique, link up play and movement repeatedly exposed the opposition’s limitations. It was yet another master class from Kilkenny. In contrast, Dublin looked heavy-legged and out of their depth leaving Daly to ponder post-match on the ‘psychological’ advantage Kilkenny hold now over most of their opponents.
It wouldn’t stretch the imagination to suggest Galway might be heading into that category as well, but they possess lot more natural hurling instincts than Dublin while, as we have already alluded to, Kilkenny may not be as manic in their desire against them on Sunday as they were in those recent outings against Cork and Dublin. Trust me, that could be an influential factor into deciding as to how long Galway remain competitive in their second ever Leinster final appearance.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.