Galway get their first shot at redemption after losing the Leinster Hurling Final to Kilkenny. Clare is a relatively tough draw and here we discuss how we think they will perform on Sunday.
Galway’s game with Kilkenny was a classic clichéd game of two halves. They dominated the first 35 minutes and made Kilkenny look as average as they have looked in the championship since 2013. They showed the game plan required to nullify Kilkenny’s strengths and were in a commanding position going into the dressing room at half-time.
They came back out in the second-half and allowed a repeat of the 2015 All-Ireland hurling final to happen. They succumbed to the extra pressure applied by Kilkenny and instead of dictating and controlling affairs like they did in the first half, they folded and allowed Kilkenny to take over.
This writer was in no way short in criticism of Galway after that game. Whatever about the stance they took over Anthony Cunningham last winter, the problem was that Galway folded AGAIN. They did not learn from mistakes and played the exact same game as last year. They showed an inability to learn from their errors and this only adds to the long list of questions that continuously surround the Tribesmen.
The consolation for Galway after that game was the fact that they played so well in the first half. It begs the question as to whether they have a psychological deficiency when it comes to playing the Cats. They have never appeared to fear other teams and one would think that they won’t, or at least shouldn’t, fear Clare on Sunday.
The Tribesmen have a lot of quality hurlers and when they play well they are a major force. It isn’t all about Joe Canning anymore, he simply is one player in the team. Cathal Mannion, Conor Whelan, David Burke and Daithí Burke are four names who have held their own with the best over the last two seasons at least.
The last time Galway faced Clare in the Championship, they were absolutely catastrophic. Coming off the back of throwing away an All-Ireland in 2012, they displayed their expert knowledge in second season syndrome in 2013 and were hammered by the Banner men, who went onto win the All-Ireland, without putting up any bit of a fight.
Galway were awful that day and haven’t performed as badly since then. The following year saw the draw go against them and they gave respectable showings against Kilkenny and Tipperary in 2014. 2015 saw them throw away another All-Ireland title with a second-half capitulation against Kilkenny. Fast forward to 2016 and as of now, we have to ask if much has changed.
The previous two paragraphs basically show that Galway are not that far away from winning a title, but it is probably safe to say that nobody would really put their neck on the line and say that Galway will win the All-Ireland.
Is the potential there? It most definitely is. But is the mentality there? It does not appear to be.
Are the players the problem? They ousted their manager, basically laying the blame at his feet for losing the All-Ireland final last year, or maybe they just felt that a new voice was needed to take the team forward.
So far, it would have be said that Mícheál Donoghue has not taken the team forward, as they did the exact same thing against Kilkenny as they did in 2015. But this Sunday does present the first shot at redemption for both players and management.
Looking at the Championship so far, Galway should be confident of beating Clare. Outside of Tony Kelly or maybe Conor McGrath, it is hard to see any Clare player being a match winner in the game that they play. They are tactical, and too tactical in this writer’s opinion.
Galway have the better hurlers and a better ability to go out and play. They don’t overdo the tactical side of things. But they have shown against Kilkenny that they are vulnerable to tactics being played against them. Because of this, the game on Sunday will be a big test of the Tribes mentality.
Galway should have the ability and confidence to go out and beat Clare. They should go out with passion, purpose and intensity and take the game to Clare.
In this writer’s opinion, its the Westerners’ game to lose. If Galway lose, they will have beaten themselves, like they have done many times in the past.
On recent performances, they are a better team than Clare, but they have to show this on the pitch and on the scoreboard.
So what will they bring to the table in Thurles, this writer expects them to rise to the challenge from the first whistle and tear into Clare with revenge for 2013 in their minds. They will also learn from their mistakes against Kilkenny and send a message out that they are proper All-Ireland contenders.
But will this happen? When it comes to Galway; who knows?