After the Leinster Final, Anthony Cunningham promised Brian Cody that they would meet again in the All-Ireland Final. Brian Barry argues that Galway hold the most potent forward line in the country, and it ought to be enough to see them past Cork on Sunday.
2012 was the last time the country witnessed Galway hurl to their true potential. They could have, would have, should have won the All-Ireland Championship. Following 2012, it was a case of getting back to the decider, and not making the same errors again. Three years later, the Tribesmen have not reached the last four in the All-Ireland series since they were dismantled by Henry Shefflin.
It does not take a hurling expert to figure out what makes Galway tick. If Joe Canning fires, Galway fire. However, too much pressure has been put on the Portumna man in recent seasons, and if he were to have an off-day, the westerners would struggle.
The lack of true game-winners is what has caused Galway’s struggles this century. In Kilkenny, if TJ Reid has an off-day, Eoin Larkin, Richie Hogan, or Richie Power will step up to the plate. If a player has an off-day, it is still very much business as usual for the Cats.
The introduction of Cathal Mannion, Jason Flynn and Jonathan Glynn has added another dimension to this Galway attack. In last year’s ill-fated qualifier against Tipp, Jonathan Glynn gave Padraic Maher all sorts of problems on the edge of the square, and in truth, the Tribesmen should have won the game. However, old failings ensured Galway faded as the match drew to a close.
This has shown that if Joe Canning is pulled out to win ball in the middle of the park, Anthony Cunningham’s side still possess a goal threat. Just ask Dublin. In the drawn game in Croke Park this year, Galway should have scored five goals, only for some heroics from Alan Nolan and some poor finishing. Six days later, they did score five goals.
The raw pace of Mannion has seen him grow into one of the most feared forwards in the game. In Tullamore, he scored three goals, off a different marker each time. Yes, he was contained by Kilkenny, but the Cork are not as defensively astute as the All-Ireland Champions.
Indeed, a testament to the Tribesmen is that they are the only team since 2013 to outscore the Cats with goals in a championship match, and have done it twice in that period.
Goals win games, and the Tribesmen are arguably the country’s most lethal side in that department.
So how can Cork counteract such a threat? Galway have proved somewhat immune to a sweeper this season, so merely placing Mark Ellis as a free man in front of the full-back line will not suffice. If Galway are to play a conventional formation, Cork could struggle.
Clare played right into Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s hands the last day out. The two man full-forward line of Shane O’Donnell and Darach Honan offered little in the way of goal threats, and the Banner were forced out the field to take scores.
Up front, the Rebels need to tighten up. 20 wides against Clare was simply abysmal, and with such a number, it is a wonder they could win a game at this level. It is becoming an old failing of this Cork side. Last year’s All-Ireland semi-final loss to Tipperary saw them register 15 wides.
To live with Galway’s fire-power, Cork must take their chances. Rain is forecasted for Sunday, so the weather will not help matters. So far this season, Cork have struggled in greasy conditions, whereas Galway have thrived.
20 points saw Cork through against Clare. They will probably need somewhere in the region of 25-30 points to see off the Tribesmen.
Joe Canning is still the most dangerous forward in hurling, but with the likes of Cathal Mannion, Jason Flynn, and Jonathan Glynn around him, a ‘Joe Show’ is no longer the Tribesmens’ only hope. This Galway side are a more potent proposition than any we have seen in maroon in the last twenty years. If Anthony Cunningham’s promise to Brian Cody is to ring true, they need to back it all up and put Cork to the sword this Sunday.
Brian Barry, Pundit Arena.