Galway’s match-ups were critical to beating Clare and Micheál Donoghue’s match-ups will need to be as good today against Tipperary. Here, we outline the key battles for today’s second semi-final clash.
Daithi Burke v Seamus Callanan
Burke was crucial to Galway’s success over Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-final three weeks ago. The Turloughmore man turned in a man-of-the-match display against Davy Fitzgerald’s Banner side and also did an impressive job in marking TJ Reid for long periods in the Leinster final. However, Burke’s biggest task will come today as it is more than likely that Micheal Donoghue will give the 23-year-old the task of man-marking Seamus Callanan, who remarkably scored 3-9 in last year’s semi-final against the Tribesmen.
Callanan has continued his remarkable form from the edge of the square. The Drom and Inch man has been consistently dangerous for the past few seasons and Burke will have his hands full today. Callanan has it all; pace, power, height and skill. Limiting the goal threat of Callanan has proved a very difficult task for many managers over the past few years and the possibility of Aidan Harte being employed as a sweeper is a very real one.
Pádraig Mannion v Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher
When Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher plays well, Tipperary usually play well. Under Michael Ryan, Tipperary look a more solid and steely team, but Maher was always one for giving his all and performing on the big day. His direct running has proven to cause problems for any defence the Lorrha and Dorrha man has played against. It is anticipated that Pádraig Mannion will be the man tasked with marking Maher.
Mannion, who had a nightmare semi-final last year, will be looking for personal redemption against the Premier county. The Ahascragh-Fohenagh man had a disaster at GAA HQ this time last year as Seamus Callanan put in a masterclass while 23-year-old was marking the Tipp star. However, Micheal Donoghue has positioned Mannion further out the field this year and the older brother of inside forward Cathal, has flourished this season to date.
The Midfield Battle
Midfield is certainly the most crucial area in hurling and dominance in this particular sector of the pitch can spell trouble for the opposition. Tipperary’s midfield have gained significant praise this year for their performances. Captain Brendan Maher, along with newcomer Michael Breen were utterly dominant in all three of their Munster championship clashes.
Galway have named Adrian Tuohy to partner captain and regular midfielder, David Burke. However, it remains to be seen if Tuohy actually lines out there. Against Clare, it was Johnny Coen who partnered the hugely influential Burke. The Loughrea man was there to mark Clare’s David Reidy but the likelihood is that Coen will remain at midfield, with Tuohy occupying a wing-back role.
Joe Cooney v Ronan Maher
In a game where the movement of all players and the line-ups of both teams are set to alter, the match-up between Cooney and Maher is a near certainty. It is hard to believe that Maher is still an u21 hurler due to his consistency and maturity on the field of play. The Thurles Sarsfields man has been a rock at the heart of the Tipperary defence. However, the younger brother of All-Star Pádraic, faces his biggest challenge of this summer’s championship to date.
Cooney is arguably one of Galway’s most underrated hurlers. The Sarsfields man had struggled to nail down a starting berth with the Tribesmen up until this summer. Cooney has delivered some outstanding displays, with direct running and a strong aerial presence two of his most prized attributes. Cooney’s battle with Maher will be a crucial one in determining the outcome of today’s clash.
Joe Canning v Seamus Kennedy
Kennedy has been a revelation for the Premier this summer. With Ronan Maher set to sit centrally and Pádraig the likely option to sweep, should Galway employ a sweeper, the former Tipperary senior footballer will likely be the man tasked with marking Portumna star Joe Canning. The St. Mary’s man has been hugely impressive and will hope to continue his fine run on his senior Croke Park debut.
Canning, on the other hand has graced Croke Park many times and will look to turn in another monumental display for Galway today. Canning’s role has evolved this year under the stewardship of Mícheál Donoghue. The Portumna star has significantly upped his work-rate in a role further out the field. His influence on any given game cannot be underestimated and Canning will be hoping his leadership can steer Galway back to another All-Ireland final date with Kilkenny.
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena