Cork legend, Diarmuid O’Sullivan believes that a Galway win in Sunday’s All Ireland final against Limerick would be one of the biggest achievements in hurling.
The new hurling format has meant that Galway played six games in the Leinster championship, including a replay of the final against Kilkenny. Their subsequent semi-final clash with Clare also went to a replay and with the demanding toll of the games, Paddy Power’s GAA columnist, O’Sullivan is adamant that a win this weekend would be “unprecedented”.
“In my own humble opinion, if Galway win this – it will be the greatest All-Ireland win of all time. Mainly due to the amount of games they’ve played to do it. It would be unprecedented. It would be as big as an achievement within the game of hurling. The physical toil they’ll have put themselves through to do that with the Round Robin series, the replay of the Leinster final, extra time and a replay in the All-Ireland semi-final is enormous. What that demands of a guy’s body is incredible.”
In contrast, Limerick have had an extra week to prepare following their stunning victory over Cork in the semi-final and the Rebels’ former selector believes this will give John Kiely’s men an advantage.
“Freshness at this time of the year is key – both in mind and body. You need to be at your peak for an All-Ireland final. So, the extra week off is certainly an advantage too them. The question for them is, what do they do with that week? Did they do some extra recovery? Did they get all their video analysis out of the way? It is still a week Galway didn’t have.”
If Limerick are to have a say in this game, their full-back line need to establish their dominance against a ruthless and explosive Galway forward unit, according to the three-time All Ireland winner.
“The key match-up for me is Galway’s full-forward line against Limerick’s full-back line. You’ve got Sean Finn, Mike Casey and Richie English facing Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney and Cathal Mannion. That Galway unit will bring a serious amount of physicality, size-wise they are also going to bring a different challenge to Limerick. They are also interchangeable and you can throw Jonathan Glynn and Niall Burke into that full forward line too.”
“It’s not the because of full-back lines – now don’t get me wrong they are very comfortable and accomplished hurlers with good experience – but they lack some physicality and size to combat what Galway will bring. People will say Conor Whelan isn’t the biggest, but look at him! He’s built like a brick-s**t house. He’s strong, he’s aggressive, he’s really powerful and he has that explosiveness built into his system.”
Although O’Sullivan is confident that Limerick have the ability to come from behind, he is of the opinion that this battle for the Liam McCarthy Cup is Galway’s to lose.
“I said earlier on in the year that Limerick would run this Championship very close. I believe I predicted semi-final and possibly finalists. I still felt Galway were the team to beat at the time. As a player – who is still playing – and a supporter of the game, I must say I have to admire where they are. I still believe the ball is in Galway’s court and it’s theirs to lose. Limerick do have a right chance, but it just might be a small bit too early from them in their development. Either way it’s another novel pairing in the final, which is only good for the game of hurling.”