In the second of a mouthwatering doubleheader, the All Ireland champions play the league champions in Pearse Stadium at 4 pm on Sunday.
Galway’s only outing so far this campaign consisted of a 12 point victory over Offaly in Tullamore while Kilkenny have been average at best in their two victories against Dublin and Offaly to date.
Even though Galway turned Offaly over with relative ease, they never really hurled with the quality you would expect of All-Ireland champions. Add to this the loss to Limerick in Division 1B and to Wexford in the league quarter-final, you would have to wonder where this Galway team are at. That being said, this Sunday is the real test of whether or not the Tribesmen can go out and lift the Liam McCarthy again this year.
The hype around Kilkenny after the league has dampened in recent weeks after two pretty poor displays against Dublin and Offaly. Similar to Galway, this is where the Cats will be judged. With 62 minutes on the clock last Sunday there was only three points separating the teams until another late Liam Blanchfield goal proved vital.
Luke Scanlon’s performance last week was a huge positive for Kilkenny with the James Stephens player scoring four points from play in the opening half. Kilkenny are struggling to produce scores at the moment registering twenty-two wide’s last Sunday with six coming in the opening fifteen minutes. They have also struggled when the direct ball is delivered on top of their full-back line, which has been obvious in their opening two encounters.
As poor as Kilkenny have been, Brian Cody will see this as a huge opportunity to cement themselves as genuine All Ireland contenders with a big performance Sunday. The problem for the Cats is on paper Galway look a lot stronger at both ends of the pitch and if they get a run in the game they could blitz them. Presuming that Galway are in a similar frame of mind to what they were this time last year, Kilkenny’s weaknesses will be exposed and the All Ireland champions could win this with a bit to spare.
Odds: Galway 8/15 Draw 9/1 Kilkenny 15/8
Ray Brennan, Pundit Arena