As Galway look to retain their Leinster championship against Brian Cody’s Kilkenny let’s take a look at five questions ahead of Sunday’s provincial final at Croke Park.
1) Can Kilkenny Cope With Galway’s Physicality?
All-Ireland champions Galway have looked the complete package this season as they went through the Leinster round robin with a 100% win record.
A key part of The Tribesmen’s game has been their physicality. Galway have a plethora of big strong hurlers littered throughout their side. Kilkenny will have to be quick and fast with their passing if they’re to compete on Sunday.
Long ball tactics will likely play into the hands of Daithi Burke and Co. at the back for Galway so Brian Cody’s men will need to try and combat Galway’s strength with their speed.
2) Do Kilkenny Now Fear Galway?
A few years ago the thought of any Brian Cody team fearing any opponent would have been laughable.
The Cats dominated the sport for so long, but Galway captain David Burke feels that when his side beat them in 2012 they killed the aura of Kilkenny and have since turned the tables on their Leinster final opponents.
“I think we changed that in ’12 and made them look like their good team was coming to a bit of an end.
“They still fear us in a way, I think anyway. They still fear playing Galway. Obviously, we played them since . . . we’ve pushed them a lot along the way. A lot of their motivation was probably to try and stop us, really. If you look at it from that point of view, you can take a lot of positives out of it.”
If you look at the encounter in Pearse Stadium five weeks ago, you could certainly make the argument that Burke is right.
However, it would be naive to ever write off a Kilkenny side in a major final.
3) How Vital Will TJ Reid Be To Kilkenny’s Success
If the Cats are to spring a surprise against Galway on Sunday then TJ Reid will likely be a huge reason behind it.
Reid was absolutely instrumental in Kilkenny’s comeback victory in their last game against Galway grabbing 0-11 as Cody’s men came back from seven points down to claim an unlikely victory.
The number 11 will relish the task of coming up against the big physical backline of Galway in Croke Park on Sunday and will hope that he can get into the kind of free-scoring flow he showed against Wexford last time out.
4) Are This Galway Side Reminiscent Of Mid 2000s Kilkenny?
It’s an interesting topic of discussion. Obviously, their level of dominance isn’t quite there yet but Galway certainly do look a cut above the rest of the competition so far this season.
Ex-Kilkenny hurler Eddie Brennan seems to see the comparisons as he outlined in his RTÉ column this week.
“They remind me a bit of ourselves in 2006 and 2007. They are playing with a great confidence. Sometimes in the media we are guilty of talking a team up, but that talk can also help a team because the opposition are then saying, ‘Galway have all the answers’.”
Brian Cody’s side during that time were nothing short of a dynasty and there’s no doubt that Brennan would be a man to identify the comparisons but perhaps it’s a step too far.
Should Galway continue their dominance though, it’ll only be a matter of time before the comparisons start becoming more and more frequent.
5) Will Their Encounter Earlier In The Season Have Any Impact On This Game?
Galway will certainly look back at their earlier affair with Kilkenny at Pearse Stadium fondly. An eight-point victory as they reduced the Cats to primarily placed scores.
A lot of things have changed in those five weeks however, Colin Fennelly and Richie Hogan are back and Croke Park will be in decidedly better condition than a post-Ed Sheeran Pearse stadium was the last time out.
Kilkenny will also be boosted by their victory over Wexford in their last game as they look to claim their 72nd Leinster title.